Copper is a noble metal with a characteristic reddish-brown color. It is one of the most important metals globally, with a long history in human culture and industry. In the future, it is likely to play a significant role in the transition to so-called green energy. Perhaps less known, the price development of copper is also a reliable indicator of the state of the economy and a precursor to upcoming booms or crises.

What It Is and Where It Comes From

Copper, chemical symbol Cu (Latin cuprum), is a noble metal found in the periodic table with the atomic number 29. Copper occurs naturally on Earth and was one of the first metals discovered and processed by humans. It formed during the process of nuclear fusion in stars and was scattered into space during supernova explosions. As the Earth formed billions of years ago, copper began to accumulate in rocks and minerals, forming the Earth's crust.

Did you know that gold and copper are the only two metals with a different color than the typical metallic hue? Gold has a distinctive yellow color that sets it apart from most other metals. Copper has a reddish-brown color due to oxidation in the air. This color gives copper a unique appearance and is one of its distinguishing features. Most other metals are gray or silver in their pure state.

The most significant copper alloy is bronze. Typically, it is an alloy of copper and tin, but bronze refers to a copper alloy with any other element except zinc (a copper-zinc alloy is called brass). For example, when it comes to sports medals, gold and silver are clear, and bronze is largely made of copper.

Copper Coil

Figure 1: Copper Wires (source: Craiyon)

Copper Properties

Copper has many important properties, making it indispensable in industry and various other sectors. The main properties of copper include:

Table 1: Copper Properties
Property Value
Color Color variability, but usually pure copper is reddish-brown
Hardness 3 on the Mohs scale
Melting Point 1085 °C
Boiling Point 2562 °C
Density 8.96 g/cm3
Thermal Conductivity 386 W/(m·K) (at 25 °C)
Electrical Conductivity 58 × 106 S/m
Young's Modulus 80 GPa
Solubility Insoluble in water
Corrosion Resistance Resistant to corrosive effects

Mining and Processing of Copper

Copper is mined from various sources, including ores and deposits. Major copper-producing countries include Chile, Peru, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, China, the USA, Russia, Indonesia, Australia, Zambia, and Mexico. The process of copper mining and processing involves the following steps:

  1. Ore Mining: Copper ore is mined from mines and deposits, then crushed and ground into a fine powder.
  2. Flotation: The powder is then mixed with water and chemicals to separate copper sulfides from other minerals.
  3. Smelting and Refining: Copper concentrate is melted and refined to obtain pure copper.
  4. Product Formation: Pure copper is then processed into various forms, including sheets, pipes, and wires.

Uses of Copper

Copper is used in many industries and has a wide range of applications. Ten examples of copper usage include:

  1. Electrical Conductors: Copper is known for its high electrical conductivity, making it ideal for manufacturing electrical conductors.
  2. Pipes and Tubing: Copper pipes are used for water and gas supply due to their corrosion resistance.
  3. Construction: Copper is used for roofing, gutters, and railings in construction because of its durability and attractive appearance.
  4. Electronics: Copper is found in electronic components such as chips, connecting wires, and conductors.
  5. Automotive Industry: Copper is used in electric motors, brakes, and radiators in vehicles.
  6. Air Conditioning and Cooling: Copper tubes are used in air conditioning units and cooling systems.
  7. Kitchenware: Copper is used in the production of pots and pans due to its good thermal conductivity.
  8. Coins: Copper has been historically used for minting coins and medals.
  9. Jewelry Production: Copper is used in metal alloys for jewelry production.
  10. Antimicrobial Properties: Copper has the ability to kill bacteria and viruses, making it used in hospital equipment and sanitary needs.

Copper in Green Energy

In the context of the growing emphasis on sustainability and the transition to renewable energy sources, copper is gaining increasing importance in the field of so-called green energy. This crucial metal becomes a key element in the production of renewable energies and modern technologies. Mark Bristow, CEO of Barrick Gold, one of the world's leading producers of gold, emphasized the exceptional strategic importance of copper, referring to it as the "most strategic out of all the metals" with the intention to invest in expanding copper production.

Copper is essential in the production of solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles, and modern batteries that are crucial for storing renewable energy. Its high electrical and thermal conductivity make it an ideal material for these technologies.

The growing demand and pressure for the use of renewable energy sources and electric vehicles indicate that copper will play a key role in the future, as companies and countries transition to a more sustainable energy model.

Copper Wires

Figure 2: The transition to renewable sources and electromobility will require a lot of copper (source: Craiyon)

Copper as an Economic Indicator

Copper holds a special significance as an economic indicator, as it is closely tied to the economic cycle. Declines or rises in copper prices can indicate an impending economic crisis or development.

An important indicator is the "copper fever". When copper prices rise, it often signals an increasing demand for this raw material, which may be a result of growing industry and construction. Conversely, a decline in copper prices may indicate that economic growth is slowing, which could be a harbinger of a recession.

There is also a close correlation between copper prices and the performance of stock markets. Investors and analysts often track copper prices as an indicator of future stock market developments. If copper prices fall, it may reflect a lack of confidence in the economy and lead to a decline in stock prices.

Therefore, copper is not only an essential element in industry and our daily lives, but also a crucial indicator of economic health. Its development and price play a fundamental role in predicting future economic cycles and investment decisions.

Investing in Copper

Below is a table for inspiration, listing 10 of the largest copper producers in the world. Most of them are traded on more than one stock exchange.

No. Company Ticker Headquarters Exchange
1 Freeport-McMoRan FCX Phoenix, Arizona, USA New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)
2 Codelco Santiago, Chile Primarily on Santiago Stock Exchange (SSE)
3 BHP BHP Melbourne, Victoria, Australia Australian Securities Exchange (ASX)
4 Grupo México GMEXICOB Mexico City, Mexico Bolsa Mexicana de Valores (BMV)
5 Glencore GLEN Baar, Switzerland London Stock Exchange (LSE)
6 Zijin Mining Group 601899 Longyan, China Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE)
7 First Quantum Minerals FM Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX)
8 KGHM Polska Miedz KGHA.F Warsaw, Poland Warsaw Stock Exchange (WSE)
9 Anglo American AAL London, United Kingdom London Stock Exchange (LSE)
10 Antofagasta ANTO Santiago, Chile London Stock Exchange (LSE)


Copper is a vital element in industry and our daily lives. Known for its high thermal and electrical conductivity, it finds wide applications in electrical engineering and electronics. Copper also exhibits resistance to corrosion, making it an ideal material for durable construction and piping.

Industrially, copper is mined and processed from ore, and it has a broad range of applications in sectors such as construction, automotive, electronics, and many more. This important raw material also holds significant economic importance. Copper prices are often monitored as an indicator of future economic cycles and stock market trends. Rising copper prices may signal economic development, while a decline may indicate a potential recession.

Given copper's importance to our society and economy, it is crucial to understand its properties, origin, mining, and processing. Copper is a metal that accompanies us in many aspects of our lives and is a key element of modern industry.

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Based on the original Czech article: Měď – kov zelené budoucnosti a indikátor ekonomického cyklu.