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Copper (Cu)

copper mineral specimen

It’s hard to imagine a world without copper. We rely on copper for supplying power, lighting, heating, communications, and water.

Copper was one of the first metals to be used by humans. It is the most easily recognised of all metals, because of it’s a warm reddish gold colour. Copper is one of the few metals that can be found as almost pure metal: in a ‘native’ state.     It appears darker when tarnished, deposits of copper are often revealed by bright green stains on rocks called copper bloom.

 
The main ores of copper are:

  • Chalcopyrite (Copper Iron Sulphide)

  • Bornite (Copper Iron Sulphide)

  • Malachite (Copper Carbonate)

Over 50% of the World's copper comes from chalcopyrite and bornite.

About 200 years ago Cornwall was a very important world source of copper. Between 1800-1830 Cornwall produced 2/3rds of the world’s supply of Copper. These copper mines have now closed and today the biggest copper mines are in Chile and North America. They produce many thousands of tonnes of copper ore per year.

Copper minerals are found in Cornwall mainly as chalcopyrite and bornite and azurite.

Copper is a transition metal. It is soft, easily bent and it is a good conductor of electricity. This makes copper useful for electrical wiring. Copper does not react with water, which makes it useful for plumbing.

 

Data Panel: Copper Native Element

Cu Copper
colour
Copper, green tarnish
hardness
2.5-3
Crystal system
Isometric
Crystal habit
Wiry, branching masses
Lustre
Metallic
Streak
Red copper
Fracture
Hackly, ductile
Other characteristics
malleable
Photograph reproduced with the kind permission of the Geevor Archive

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