Geology of Copper
Learn interesting geological facts about copper - where to find it, top producers, and why to invest
|Physical Properties of Copper|
|Composition||Copper, commonly associated with iron and silver|
|Chemical Classification||Native Element|
|Color||Copper-red to brown. Tarnishes green, blue, brown, red, or black.|
|Streak||Copper-red. Streak shiny.|
|Hardness||2.5 to 3|
|Rock Type||Igneous, Sedimentary, Metamorphic|
|Modern Uses||Electrical, construction, transportation, household appliances, investment|
Copper has been used by humans for over 10,000 years. It is both a native element and a mineral. This gives it a place on the periodic table with an atomic number of 29. Copper is also a necessary part of the human diet. Without it, humans could not survive.
Despite its aesthetically pleasing appearance, the industrial uses of copper greatly outnumber its decorative uses. Understanding its geological properties makes it easy to see why humans have always been so fond of working with and investing in this marvelous precious metal.
Continue reading to learn geological facts about this precious metal and why you should consider investing.
Brief Overview of Copper in Human History
As one of the first metals ever mined by humans, copper helped the early humans emerge from the Stone Age. AIt was a crucial component of the creation of bronze and it played a major role in the further development of more advanced societies as we entered the Bronze Age.
Dating as far back as 10,000 years ago, copper was used to make things like coins, ornaments, and tools. In modern times, it is more useful than ever. Because it conducts electricity, it is commonly used in electrical wiring and for many other types of applications.
Where Copper is Found on Earth
Half of all the world’s copper is found in four localized regions: South America, South Central Asia, Indochina, and North America. The rest is spread throughout the world.
Copper has been found on almost every continent. It has also been mined in Central America, the Caribbean, Northeast Asia, North Central Asia, the Southeast Asian Archipelagos, Eastern Australia, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. One of the largest current sources of copper mining today is in Chile.
Amount of Copper Worldwide
There is an estimated 5.8 trillion pounds of copper on Earth. A little more than half a trillion has been extracted since humans first began mining it. Less than 12 percent of the planet’s copper supply has been mined between 8,000 BCE and today.
Copper is also one of the world’s most recycled metals, partly because of the ease of melting it down and creating new product.
How Copper is Mined
Copper is found alongside many other types of ore. It can be found near gold, silver, zinc, lead, and other types of metal deposits. When mixed in with other ores, copper is not usually found in great abundance.
Until the development of the modern copper mining process, it was typically a byproduct of mining for other metals. The deposits that contain the largest quantities of copper are called porphyry deposits, and the process of extracting it usually involves drilling an open pit into a layer of sedimentary rock.
How Copper Forms in the Earth
To understand how copper is formed, it helps to look at how porphyry deposits—the largest current sources of copper ore—form. The orebodies form in hydrothermal veins that are born in underground magma chambers far below the deposit itself. The high temperatures of volcanic magma creates hydrothermal veins, allowing some of the heat to escape near the upper layers of the Earth’s crust.
This is why copper is often found in the sedimentary layer, where sand and mud are compressed until they form a layer of sedimentary rock on the surface of the earth. Copper ore gets trapped in oxidized zones within these types of rocks.
Copper is also commonly found in the oxidized zones of mineral deposits and in basalt cavities that have been in contact with hydrothermal veins. The presence of volcanoes in a region is often a good indicator of the presence of copper because that is where basalt cavities are in abundance near the sedimentary layer of the Earth.
Copper and Its Modern Applications
Copper is a mineral by definition because it is a native element on Earth. Its applications range from practical/utilitarian to decorative/ornamental. It efficiently conducts electricity, so it is frequently used in wiring.
Copper is also made into alloys with other metals. Combined with zinc, it makes brass. Mixed with tin and zinc, it creates bronze.
Copper is also a necessity for human health; we need a daily supply of this mineral. People get their dietary copper through things like seafood and other meats, whole grains, nuts, raisins, and even chocolate. Because it has so many uses, copper will continue to be valuable well into the future.
Copper is inextricably linked to human development and its value remains stable because it has so many different and important uses. It tends to be a solid investment because demand for copper is only expected to remain steady or grow in the future. While not as valuable as gold, silver, or other precious metals, raw copper bullion is available in bars, coins, and rounds.