Background: In Ghana, the discharge of untreated gold mine wastewater contaminates the aquatic systems with heavy metals such as copper (Cu), threatening ecosystem and human health. The undesirable effects of these pollutants can be avoided by treatment of the mining wastewater prior to discharge. In this work, the sorption properties of agricultural materials, namely coconut shell, coconut husk, sawdust and Moringa oleifera seeds for Cu(II) were investigated. Results: The Freundlich isotherm model described the Cu(II) removal by coconut husk (R2 = 0.999) and sawdust (R2 = 0.993) very well and the Cu(II) removal by Moringa oleifera seeds (R2 = 0.960) well. The model only reasonably described the Cu(II) removal by coconut shell (R2 = 0.932). A maximum Cu(II) uptake of 53.9 mg g-1 was achieved using the coconut shell. The sorption of Cu(II) onto coconut shell followed pseudo-second-order kinetics (R2 = 0.997). FTIR spectroscopy indicated the presence of functional groups in the biosorbents, some of which were involved in the sorption process. SEM-EDX analysis confirmed an exchange of Mg(II) and K(I) for Cu(II) on Moringa oleifera seeds and K(I) for Cu(II) on coconut shell. Conclusion: This study shows that coconut shell can be an important low-cost biosorbent for Cu(II) removal. The results indicate that ion exchange, precipitation and electrostatic forces were involved in the Cu(II) removal by the biosorbents investigated. © 2011 Society of Chemical Industry.