Apr 7, 2010|
The 10,000 year old metal
The early part of human civilization is often classified according to the tools then commonly used. The periods are - the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. In some parts of the world, a Copper Age preceded the Bronze Age. After about 10,000 years, even today copper is the third widely consumed metal after iron and aluminium.
Key properties of copper
The extensive use of copper is due to its many properties. Some of them are - excellent conductor of electricity (next only to gold and silver), malleable & ductile, strong and recyclable, corrosion resistant, can be alloyed with other metals, non magnetic and excellent transferor of heat.
Copper is found in the following forms:
Copper resources in India limited. In fact, they are characterised by their low volume, narrow width, low grade and absence of almost any precious metal content. As a result, most smelters in India import copper ore for their requirements.
- Sulfide deposits -Chalcopyrite, bornite, chalcocite, covellite
- Carbonate deposits: Azurite and Malachite
- Silicate deposits - Chrysycolla and dioptase
- As pure 'native' copper.
The copper industry can be broadly classified into primary and secondary producers. The former can be divided into three categories:
- Copper miners: They use mined ore to produce copper concentrates
- Copper custom smelters: They smelt and refine copper from the concentrates obtained from copper mines
- Integrated copper producers: They undertake mining, smelting, and refining or leaching to produce copper.
Of these, integrated copper producers account for a large part of the world's copper capacity. Secondary producers use copper scrap and recycled copper.
In India, the share of primary sector is about 65%. The rest comes from secondary producers. Hindustan Copper, Hindalco and Sterlite are the three major primary producers.
Copper is consumed in three main forms: Copper wire rods, copper products and copper alloy products. Some of the industries that use copper are: electrical, electronics and communications, construction, transportation, industrial machinery and equipment and consumer products. Among these, electrical, electronics and building construction account for about 65% to 75% of consumption world wide.
Supply and pricing
The five largest copper mining countries are Chile, USA, Peru, Australia and Indonesia. Unfortunately, India is deficient in this resource. Copper is traded on the London Metal Exchange (LME). Although prices are determined by LME price movements, producers normally charge a regional premium that is market driven.
What to expect
With the rise of the cellular industry in the past few years, the consumption of copper in India had hit a roadblock. The price of optic fiber had also fallen. As a result, demand from the jelly filled telecom cables sector, the largest user of copper in India had declined. However, industry demand has rebounded strongly on the back of other user segments such as winding wires and power cables. In the years to come, while demand from the telecom sector is likely to be tepid, it will be compensated by the massive addition in infrastructure in areas like power, construction and engineering.
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