CHAPTER 9

Copper

OVERVIEW

It is estimated that copper, the oldest metal ever utilized, was discovered 10,000 years ago. Archeologists have found copper smelting sites that date back to about 4500 BCE in present-day Jordan, Egypt, and Israel. Still serviceable copper tubing used for plumbing can be found in the temples and tombs of ancient Egypt.

Copper is considered a “half” precious metal, and its reddish hue makes it the only metal other than gold to be colored. It occurs as a solid and in minerals. The primary deposits for this metal are in Chile and the United States.

Tough, flexible, and relatively hard, copper has good chemical stability. This makes copper ideally suitable for the production of very thin lamellas and fine wires. When exposed to air, copper mixes with basic sulfates, carbonates, and chloride to form a greenish patina that protects the copper from further corrosion.

Its strong erosion-resistant properties and excellent ability to conduct electricity make copper one of the most widely used metals in industry. Refined copper, the final product from the treatment of concentrates, is incorporated into wire and cable products for use in the construction, electric utility, communications, and transportation industries. Copper is also used in industrial equipment and machinery, consumer products, and a variety of other electrical and electronic applications.

Copper is combined with zinc to make brass and with tin to make bronze, both of which are harder metals than ...

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