Copper is among the easiest minerals to mine (and refine). Humankind has been extracting copper for over 7,000 years; the use of copper can be traced as far back as 11,000 years as well. In terms of where copper is most prevalent: “Large deposits of copper ore are located in the United States, Chile, Zambia, Zaire, Peru and Canada.”
I guess it depends on what you mean by “easy”. Yes, it has been historically the earliest metal used in significant volume. To mine it today takes huge shovels, trucks, and multi-billion-dollar operations – mostly because the easy-to-mine ore has mostly been obtained already. In many mines, if they handed you a piece of their best ore, you’d see nothing of interest in it – it would look like plain old granite. When “good” ore is only 0.3% copper (6 pounds per ton), it really isn’t exactly “easy” to extract that copper.
Chile produces more than a third of the world’s copper; the US, with only 5% of world reserves, imports almost a third of the copper that we use here.
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