Where Is Copper Found

Where is copper found? Copper is one of the most widely used metals, making it a high-demand item among other commodities. Supply and demand goes a long way toward determining copper's value, so knowing where it comes from can help you decide if you want to make the investment.

Where does copper come from?
Copper is mined in a few different ways. First, it can come from a naturally formed free metallic state found in basaltic lava as a result of volcanic activity.

Or, copper can be found in oxidized ores and sulfide ores that must be mined and processed. Oxidized ores contain primarily copper, and can basically be melted down into copper form in a smelting process. Copper contained in sulfide ores requires significant processing, including complex procedures to separate the copper from the sulfide deposits and enriching processes to enhance these small concentrations of copper prior to smelting.

Copper-producing countries.
Because copper comes in different forms, companies produce copper in different ways. Chile is the leading producer of copper, with the biggest known copper deposit formed by volcanic activity in the Andean Mountains. Peru is another major copper producer in South America, although it falls behind other copper-producing countries in total volume.

The United States is second behind Chile in copper production, with large deposits in the Midwest and Southwest. The largest copper mine in the United States is in Utah, with other large mines in Arizona, New Mexico, Michigan and Montana.

Other copper-producing countries include Canada, parts of Africa and the Ural Mountains in Russia. In Canada, Ontario and British Columbia are the two largest mined copper-producing provinces, making the country the fifth-largest producer of mined copper in the world.

African copper production has hit many snags, even though one of the biggest deposits is in the Zambian Copperbelt. Investment in Zambian copper production has withdrawn, and Zambian copper production is down. Other areas of South Africa boast increasing copper production, notably Phalaborwa. The Democratic Republic of Congo has been a key copper producer in Africa, but periods of civil war have made the DRC copper production sporadic and unreliable. With African copper production so variable, supply is inconsistent and has not reached peak potential.

Copper mining is a potentially serious concern.
Copper mining in some areas gives rise to environmental concerns. In northern Minnesota, copper mining would convert a harmless mercury sediment into a potentially lethal toxin that could infect the water supply and local fish farms.

Copper mining in Antarctica is banned, effectively forever, by the Madrid Protocol. Studies have found copper mining in Antarctica would have a severe impact on the Antarctic environment, with a trickle-down effect influencing other parts of the world. Environmental impact is an important consideration for copper mining, and countries must effectively regulate mining to protect sensitive environments.

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