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Copper

The metal of civilization

Highlights

Properties and Uses

Copper is a reddish, orangeish or brownish metal, depending on its level of oxidation. It is one of the most extensively used metals in the world owing to its unique properties:

  • It is amongst the most malleable and ductile metals
  • It has the second highest thermal and electrical conductivity of all the elements (bested only by silver)
  • It is highly resistant to corrosion.

Copper is used in a variety of applications, including:

  • Electrical products - The primary use of copper globally is in the production of power cables and other electrical products such as generators, motors and transformers, which are used in the power generation and transmission industry, and in machinery.
  • Building construction - The second-largest use of copper and its alloys (such as brass and bronze) comes from the building construction industry. It is used for roofing and plumbing, especially in water pipes, taps, valves and fittings, because of the corrosion-resistant quality and malleability of the metal.
  • Electronic product manufacturing - The high electrical and thermal conductivity of copper also means it is used extensively in the electronics industry.
  • Industrial machinery production - Owing to their durability, machinability, and ability to be cast with high precision and tolerances, copper alloys are ideal for making products such as gears, bearings and turbine blades.

Several of the above applications of copper are brought together in transportation vehicles, where copper is an essential component in the motors, wiring, radiators, connectors, brakes and bearings.

About 98% of all copper is used in the form of pure metal or in alloys, with the remaining 2% being diverted for the production of compounds.

Global Supply

The supply of copper is widely distributed globally. Chile produces over 30% of the world’s primary copper. However, the rest of the production is spread across a host of countries that includes Peru, China, the US and Australia. In addition, about one-third of the world’s copper consumption is sourced through recycling.