The History Of Copper

Copper has been in use by civilization for over 10,000 years, and has been recycled since early times. Because it does not degrade during recycling, copper in use today could have been first fabricated into objects thousands of years ago. Copper is highly prized by scrap metal collectors and scrap metal recycling businesses. The nonferrous metal is the best conductor of electricity except for silver. That electrical and thermal conductivity, along with properties of high ductility and malleability make it one of the most demanded metals by industry, eclipsed only by iron and aluminum.

Copper has been used and recycled by people for over 10,000 years, with a pendant dated to approximately 87000 BC having been found in what is now northern Iraq. Around 8000 B.C., copper emerged as a substitute for stone, and by 4000 B.C., Eyptians were heating and casting copper into shapes. Around 3500 B.C., the technology of copper processing continued to grow as the process of smelting ores was discovered, harkening the introduction of the Bronze Age.

The Mediterranean island of Cypress was the source of copper used by the ancient Romans. They called the highly coveted ore “aes Cyprium,” which translates into English as “metal of Cyprus.” This name was shortened to cyprium, and later, cyprium was changed to coprum. This latter term was the genesis of the English word, “copper.”

As with other metals, there are significant environmental benefits to the recycling of copper. These include solid waste diversion, reduced energy requirements for processing, and natural resource conservation. For example, the energy requirements of recycled copper are as much as 85 to 90 percent less than the processing of new copper from virgin ore. In terms of conservation, copper is a non-renewable resource, although only 12 percent of known reserves have been consumed. Known U.S. reserves of copper are thought to total 1.6 billion metric tons, with production concentrated in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada and Montana. About 99 percent of domestic production is generated from 20 mines.

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