Already 8000 years ago, people recognized the outstanding properties of copper and processed the metal for the first time. Even today, copper is indispensable thanks to its properties, because without the industrial metal our modern technology would hardly be conceivable.
It is therefore not surprising that copper is the metal with the third highest consumption after aluminum and iron. As an investment, copper is therefore extremely interesting.
Many advantageous properties ensure a wide range of uses
Copper has some properties that make it indispensable in various industries. For example, copper has a high electrical conductivity. Therefore, it is needed for the manufacture of cables, but computers and all other electronic devices.
In the construction industry, however, copper is used primarily because of its durability and good formability, as well as its noble appearance. Copper is also a sought-after material for the production of water pipes. Copper does not rust and offers the additional advantage that little heat energy is lost.
In addition to industrial use, copper is a popular material for the production of artistic and decorative objects because of its noble appearance.
Extraction from copper ore
Copper extraction is quite complicated and involves several steps. First, the so-called copper ore is mined in mines. The mined copper ore is also known as chalcopyrite and must be processed into copper matte in the first step by roasting with coke.
However, the copper stone still contains many iron oxides, which are flushed out by slagging. Before the copper matte thus processed becomes raw copper, air must be blown into the liquefied copper matte. This process is called slag blowing.
Up to that point, copper matte consists of copper sulfide. In the so-called cooking blowing process, the copper sulfide is ultimately converted into copper oxide and crude copper is produced.
Raw copper consists of only 98 percent pure copper. The remaining 2 percent is zinc and iron. Only when zinc and iron have been separated from the raw copper by applying a voltage in copper sulfate solution is it pure copper.
The main producing countries and mining companies
Copper deposits are found all over the world. However, the largest deposits are in South and North America, as well as in China and Russia.
By far the most copper is mined in Chile. Peru and China are the two countries with the highest mine production after Chile, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo, the USA and Australia. In Europe, Poland is the country with the highest mining output, with around 400000 tons of copper per year.
Those who want to invest in copper have various options for doing so. Shares in mining companies offer an alternative. Important companies involved in the mining and refining of copper include Rio Tinto, Glencore, Anglo American, Aurubis and Antofagasta.