The discovery of copper go back to prehistoric times; it has been mined for more than 6000 years. Gold was probably the first metal to attract man's attention because of its sparkling yellow color, and iron in the form of meteorites may have been used before copper in some localities. However, there is evidence that every ancient metal culture was actually introduced by the use of the red metal. The early age of copper probably had its greatest development in Egypt. The most important copper-ore deposits of Antiquity were in Sinai, Syria, Afghanistan, Cyprus, Iberia and Central Europe. European copper mines of the Bronze Age are known in Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Tyrol.

The world today's copper industry is confronted with many technical and economic problems; one of the most challenging is preventing the loss of markets to substitute materials such as aluminum, steel and plastics.