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Seven thousand years in the service of humanity--the history of copper, the red metal

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  • Radetzki, Marian

Abstract

Measured by weight, copper is the third most important metal used by man. The annual value of its 2007 output was on a par with the GDP of e.g. Ukraine. Copper is also one of the oldest metals, its employment going back 7000 years. For millennia, it was predominantly employed for decorative purposes, coinage and in warfare. Technical breakthroughs in antiquity, like smelting and alloying, expanded its production and enhanced its utility. Copper's true heyday occurred after 1850, with the usage of electricity. In the period since then, volumes increased 300-fold, while costs and prices declined. With impressive progress in the technology of its production and consumption, the red metal has been able to hold its own, despite the emergence over history of formidable substitutes like iron, aluminum, plastics and optic fiber.

Suggested Citation

  • Radetzki, Marian, 2009. "Seven thousand years in the service of humanity--the history of copper, the red metal," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 176-184, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jrpoli:v:34:y:2009:i:4:p:176-184
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Tilton, John E., 1992. "Mineral endowment, public policy and competitiveness : A survey of issues," Resources Policy, Elsevier, pages 237-249.
    2. Marian Radetzki & Carl Van Duyne, 1985. "The Demand for Scrap and Primary Metal Ores after a Decline in Secular Growth," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 18(2), pages 435-449, May.
    3. Radetzki,Marian, 2008. "A Handbook of Primary Commodities in the Global Economy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521880206, Junio.
    4. Bartos, P. J., 2002. "SX-EW copper and the technology cycle," Resources Policy, Elsevier, pages 85-94.
    5. Svedberg, Peter & Tilton, John E., 2006. "The real, real price of nonrenewable resources: copper 1870-2000," World Development, Elsevier, pages 501-519.
    6. Radetzki, Marian, 1975. "Metal mineral resource exhaustion and the threat to material progress: The case of copper," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 3(2-3), pages 123-136.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Martin Stürmer, 2013. "150 Years of Boom and Bust: What Drives Mineral Commodity Prices?," 2013 Papers pst529, Job Market Papers.
    2. Bruno Lanz & Thomas F. Rutherford & John E. Tilton, 2013. "Subglobal Climate Agreements and Energy-intensive Activities: An Evaluation of Carbon Leakage in the Copper Industry," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, pages 254-279.
    3. Martin Stuermer & Gregor Schwerhoff, 2013. "Technological change in resource extraction and endogenous growth," Bonn Econ Discussion Papers bgse12_2013, University of Bonn, Germany.
    4. Stuermer, Martin & Schwerhoff, Gregor, 2015. "Non-renewable resources, extraction technology, and endogenous growth," Working Papers 1506, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

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