Copper, the oldest metal known to human beings, is found in ore deposits throughout the world, with the largest production occurring in Chile and the United States. Humans discovered copper about 10,000 years ago. It was first combined with tin to form the alloy bronze in about 3,000 B.C.
In modern times, copper is used for everything from electrical wiring to car parts. It is a durable, yet malleable metal, which makes it useful in a wide range of applications. It is also an excellent conductor.
Chile produces about 20 percent of the world's copper, while the United States produces about 9 percent. Australia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Poland are the other large copper producers.
One of the richest copper sources in the world is in Michigan. Long before white people settled in the area, Native Americans mined copper along Lake Superior and northern Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula. The Native Americans used copper to make tools. Archaeological excavations have uncovered hammering stones used to work the copper the Indians mined.
While the Native Americans eventually abandoned their mines, American prospectors had excellent luck picking up where they left off in the same mines. For decades, copper mining was an integral part of Michigan's economy.