The History of Copper

The chemical element Copper, with the symbol Cu and the atomic number of 29, is one of the first known metals and possibly the most important discovery in the evolution and development of the modern day human race. This pinkish or peachy colored metal is one of a few to occur naturally in nature as an uncompounded mineral. For this reason, it has been known to some of the oldest civilizations throughout history.

Copper’s discovery can be placed as far back as 10,000 years ago. In fact, a copper pendant was found in northern Iraq that dates back to around 8700 BC., as well as proof of the smelting of copper as early as 5000 BC. Being a rather malleable material, it has been easily manipulated and conformed to make everything from tools and weapons to cooking pots and many other household utensils.

Shortly after the discovery of copper it was found that by alloying copper with zinc or tin it was possible to create brass and bronze. This helped to speed the early development of many cultures including the Egyptians, Romans and eventually ushered in what has been known as the Bronze age in Europe.

Throughout history, copper’s use has continued to be a vital part of our everyday life. In 1801, the famous Paul Revere established America’s first copper rolling mill in Massachusetts. Also, in the early 1800s, it was also discovered that copper wire could be used as a conductor. And in 1886 the people of France presented the United States with the Statue of liberty that is made up of 179,220 pounds of copper.

Due to its many uses, Copper is a commodity item and thus has many factors that make up its price/value in the modern world. The price of copper has quintupled since 1999 when at a 60-year low of $.60 per pound it had risen to $3.50 per pound by April 2007. Due to the weakening global demand and fall in commodity prices, we have seen it drop in recent months to a low $1.30 per pound in early February 2009.

Experts gauge that the Earth has an estimated 60 years of copper reserves remaining at our present extraction rate. Although some estimate it may be much sooner than that at around 25 years with an extrapolation of 2% growth per year. More than 95 percent of all copper ever mined or extracted having been since 1900. And with India and China racing to catch up with the West, copper reserves are getting tight. On the bright side, it should be noted that the US is leading the charge as far as recycling copper is concerned. The US currently recycles more copper than it extracts each year and those numbers are on the rise.