A reconstruction of changes in copper production and copper emissions to the atmosphere during the past 7000 years
The science of the total environment. - Amsterdam
, p. 183-193
University of Antwerp
World copper (Cu) production has changed remarkably during the past 7000 years in parallel with the growth and decline of civilizations. During the Roman period ( similar to 250 B.C.-A.D. 350), Cu mining and smelting activities were very vigorous in order to supply Cu needed for monetary base-metal. The total amount produced in the Roman World is estimated to similar to 4-5 million tonnes, which gives an average production rate of similar to 7000 tonnes/year with a maximum of similar to 15 000 tonnes/year 2 millennia ago. World Cu production declined after the fall of the Roman Empire. It rose again during the Sung dynasty of China (A.D. 960-1279), with a peak of similar to 14 000 tonnes/year in the 1080s. At the onset of the Industrial Revolution world Cu production was similar to 10 000 tonnes/year. It then increased strongly to present day values of similar to 9 million tonnes/year. Cu emissions to the atmosphere related to this production varied considerably because of large changes in production technologies. During the Antiquity, emission factors were probably as high as similar to 15% because of uncontrolled and wasteful smelting procedures. These factors remained essentially unchanged until the Industrial Revolution. They then sharply decreased to similar to 1%, at the beginning of the 20th century and similar to 0.25% at present. Cumulative emissions of Cu to the atmosphere are estimated to similar to 600 000 tonnes during the Roman period, which is as much as similar to 50% of Cu emitted during the 20th century. From the beginning of Cu production similar to 7000 years ago to the Industrial Revolution, total emissions were similar to 1.7 millions tonnes, which is comparable with the emissions from the Industrial Revolution to present. Changes in estimated Cu emissions to the atmosphere are in good agreement with recent data on changes in Cu fallout fluxes to central Greenland obtained from the analysis of a Greenland ice core.