7 Things You May Not Know About Copper

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Copper is a name that is widely used within industrial, technological, chemical and even artistic circles. However, many people don't know much more about this metal than its current market rate or that it exists in the web of wires that feed their homes, businesses and vehicles with power. Because of this, we've constructed a list of the most interesting things about this popular metal.


1. Copper is widely used around the world and has been for countless centuries. In fact, humans have used copper for the past 10,000 years and possibly longer than that.

2. 95% of the copper that has been mined thus far has been extracted and smelted since 1900.

3. It is estimated that there is a vast amount of copper left in just the Earth's top kilometer of crust. Experts believe that, at the rate we are currently extracting copper, there is enough remaining to be mined for 5 million years. Yet, only a small percentage of these reserves are considered economically viable.

4. Copper can be found in the crust of the Earth at a concentration of around 50ppm, but it is also found synthesized in massive stars.

5. Much like aluminum, copper is completely recyclable and experiences no loss in its quality. In fact, in terms of volume, it takes the number 3 spot for the most popular metals to recycle.

6. Rough estimates suspect that at least 80% of the world's previously mined copper is still being used today.

7. The first believed discovery of copper places it in the Middle East during 9000 BC.

The metal copper and its alloys have been used for thousands of years. In the Roman era, copper was principally mined on Cyprus, hence the origin of the name of the metal as сyprium (metal of Cyprus), later shortened to сuprum. Its compounds are commonly encountered as copper(II) salts, which often impart blue or green colors to minerals such as turquoise and have been widely used historically as pigments. Architectural structures built with copper corrode to give green verdigris (or patina). Decorative art prominently features copper, both by itself and as part of pigments.

Copper occurs naturally as native copper and was known to some of the oldest civilizations on record. It has a history of use that is at least 10,000 years old, and estimates of its discovery place it at 9000 BC in the Middle East; a copper pendant was found in northern Iraq that dates to 8700 BC. There is evidence that gold and iron were the only metals used by humans before copper. Copper smelting is known to have occurred since 5500 BC in the Balkans by a chisel from Prokuplje in Serbia. It was invented independently in other parts of the world: China before 2800 BC, the Andes around 2000 BC, Central America around 600 AD and West Africa around 900 AD.

Copper toxicity: Gram quantities of various copper salts have been taken in suicide attempts and produced acute copper toxicity in humans, possibly due to redox cycling and the generation of reactive oxygen species that damage DNA. Corresponding amounts of copper salts (30 mg/kg) are toxic in animals. A minimum dietary value for healthy growth in rabbits has been reported to be at least 3 ppm in the diet. However, higher concentrations of copper (100 ppm, 200 ppm, or 500 ppm) in the diet of rabbits has been shown to favorably influence feed conversion efficiency, growth rates, and carcass dressing percentages.

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Terry Willette