Copper is orange metal found in relative-abundance within the earth’s crust.[vii] Pure copper is highly malleable, a good conductor of heat, and has a moderately high melting point. When exposed to the elements, it reacts with oxygen to form a light shade of green. Bronze and brass are also made from copper alloyed with tin and zinc, respectively.[viii]
Copper and its alloys have been used by many different civilizations as far back as 9000 BC.[ix] Numerous copper artifacts have been identified across the globe. Modern uses of copper include electrical wiring, plumbing materials, roofing, cookware, automobile brake pads, and agricultural products.[x]
In 2007, the United States was the third largest producer of copper in the world behind Chile and Peru.[xi]
Thirteen mines within Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico account for 99% of domestic production. Open pit mines are used to extract copper in the form of mineral ore which is then refined through a variety of process.[xii]
Copper is introduced into the environment through both natural and anthropogenic activities. Anthropogenic sources of copper in the environment are copper mining activities, metal and electrical manufacturing, agricultural and domestic use of pesticides and fungicides, leather processing, and automotive brake pads. Natural sources of copper pollution are volcanic eruptions, windblown dust, and forest fires.