Copper is a precious commodity these days, evidenced by the increase in theft. People often steal copper wiring from outdoor facilities and electric substations to be resold and repurposed elsewhere. Copper does not occur naturally in the earth’s crust, so it must be extracted from a mined ore. These ores include Tennantite, Chalcopyrite, Chalcocite, and more. The price of Copper has skyrocketed in recent years, making it even more profitable to mine. In 2002, one pound of Copper cost $0.76. In 2007 it had jumped to $3.02 per pound, and is now around $3.20 per pound. The four biggest Copper producers in the world are Chile, China, Peru, and the United States, respectively.
In 1992, Chile opened the door for more foreign private investment in large-scale copper mining ventures. This made it possible for American companies to work with the Chilean government in the mining of copper ores in Northern Chile. Chile produces copper, gold, silver, iron, and coal from its mines, and it makes up a very large part of their government funding and exports. Copper mines can be underground or in open-pit form. Once the ore is retrieved from the mines, it goes through an extraction process to separate the copper from the rest of the material. For economic and environmental reasons, the leftover materials are reclaimed for new uses, for example, sulfur dioxide is converted to sulfuric acid and used again in the extraction process. Investment in South American mines has proved very profitable and worthwhile in recent years.