Copper, one of the first metals known to humans and believed to be mined in the Tigris-Euphrates valley as long ago as the 5 th Century B.C. The use of copper in antiquity is of more significance than gold as the first tools, implements and weapons were made from copper. From 4,000 to 6,000 BC was the Chalcolithic period that was when copper came into common use. The symbol for copper is Cu and comes from the Latin cuprum.

Important sources :

Although copper can be found free in nature the most important sources are the minerals cuprite, malachite, azurite, chalcopyrite and bornite. Copper is reddish colored, alleable, ductile and a good conductor of heat and electricity. Approximately 90% 0f the world’s primary copper originates in sulfide ores.

The main ores of copper are:

Chalcopyrite

Bornite

Malachite.


    The ores are extracted by either traditional mining (open pit or underground) or by leaching. The copper is then recovered using physical and chemical techniques.

Small amounts of copper are found uncombined, particularly near Lake Superior in Michigan. Copper ores are found in various parts of the world. In the United States (the chief producer of copper) ores are mined in Arizona, Utah, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, and Michigan. Copper ores are also found in Canada, South America (in Chile and Peru), S central Africa, Russia (in the Ural Mts.), and to a limited extent in Europe and the British Isles.

About 200 years ago the UK was an important world source of copper and there were mines in Cornwall and Wales. These mines have now closed and today the biggest copper mines are in Chile and North America. These produce many thousands of tonnes of copper ore per year.

The eight leading refining nations, viz., United States, Japan, Chile, Canada, Zambia, Belgium, and the Federal Republic of Germany account for 67% of total refined metal production.

 

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