Copper
History

Name

In Latin the name of this vital metal for human life is Cuprum (Cu). It is believed that it has originated from the island of Cyprus where the Romans used to mine copper from its rich copper mines. In ancient mythology and alchemy this metal was associated with the protection of the goddesses Aphrodite and Venus due to the radiant beauty of copper articles and its relation with the island of Cyprus which was considered sacred.
During the Byzantine rule this metal was known as chalkos which gave the names of the copper ores – chalcopyrite and chalkosine.

First Evidence

Copper was known even to the most ancient civilizations and it takes pride in a more than 10 000-year-old history.
The oldest copper ornament dates back to around 8700 BC and it was found in the modern territories of Northern Iraq.

There is evidence for copper smelting and recovery through processing of malachite and azurite in different parts of the world dating back to 5000 BC.

Copper and bronze artifacts were found in the ancient cities of Sumer dating back to 3000 BC. Egyptian findings made of copper and copper alloys containing tin are known from approximately the same period. Copper pipelines of a water supply system dating back to 5000 years ago were found in one of the Egyptian Pyramids.

The Bronze Age

Bronze, being the first copper alloy, named the age that followed the Stone Age in the human civilization development.

About 3000 BC prehistoric people started using bronze instead of stone to make weapons, tools and jewelry. The dating of this epoch, known as the Bronze Age is different for the various civilizations but most probably bronze was used for the first time in Mesopotamia or Egypt.

The ancient Egyptians obtained bronze alloys discovering that it was easier to cast copper if a small quantity of tin was added to it.

The use of copper in ancient China dates back to about 2000 BC.
There are ancient copper mines preserved in the mountain of Ural where ore used to be mined 3500 - 5000 ago.
The glaciers of the Austrian-Italian Alps have preserved a skeleton of a man who lived in about 3200 BC. A copper axe made of 99,7% pure metal was found close to him. The finding was called Ötzi the Iceman and scientists assume that he was an ancient miner who used to mine and smelt copper.
People of high standing on the Old Continent were distinguished by their swords and jewelry made of bronze.

Distribution

Copper is the 29th chemical element of Mendeleev’s periodic table
Copper is among the scarcely spread metals in the bowels of the earth.
It is found mostly in the form of compounds and very rarely as native copper.
Sulphide ores like chalcopyrite (СuFeS2) chalcosine (Cu2S), bornite (Cu5FeS4), cuprite (Cu2O), malachite (CuCO3), azurite (Cu(OH)2) and others are among the most significant ones.
The largest copper mine in the world is located in South America.
The largest copper mine in Europe is located in Sweden.
The largest copper mine on the Balkans, Assarel-Medet, is located in Bulgaria.

Copper Mining

In ancient times learned how to obtain copper from the ore by heating the rock to the metal melting point. They used to mould bronze objects by pouring the metal into stone shapes or ingots.

In modern world copper is produced by processing the ore to obtaining copper concentrate which is a major raw material for smelters. In general, the technological process involves drilling, mining, ore processing, ore flotation for concentrate recovery and rehabilitation of damaged areas.
Bulgaria’s leading companies whose activity is copper ore mining and processing are Assarel-Medet, Panagyurishte, Elatzite Med and Chelopech Mining. Their production serves as a basis for the development of non-ferrous metallurgy in the country.

Application

Copper finds a large application in any aspect of engineering and high technologies. Its high conductivity which is 10 times higher than iron’s conductivity is its typical property.

Application of Copper: machinery construction, tool-making, electronics, electricity supply, computer technologies, automotive industry
Due to its high corrosion resistance, a copper alloy with nickel is employed in shipbuilding and airplane building.
It is also present in coins composition – most often in the form of cupronickel. The American 10-cent coins have a 5,5% copper contents.
It also finds place in air conditioning installations and hospital equipment since bacteria do no develop on copper surfaces
a number of objects needed for the everyday life
exquisite art and jewelry
sculpture – the Statue of Liberty contains more than 81,3 tons of copper
There is a curious fact that the multifunctional knives of the Eskimo women are made of copper too …

The first Metal