Older Sources of the Metal Abroad

A number of Continental countries have deposits of copper, but none can compare with the tremendous output today of the American, Canadian, Zambian, and other African mines. Some Austrian copper mines, mainly at the Mittsberg and Kitzbühl, have a long history which is stated to go right back to the Bronze Age; but there, as elsewhere in Europe, the great days of copper mining were between the 15th and 17th Centuries.

The famous mines of Mansfeld in southern Germany and the smaller one at Rammelsberg have also been worked for centuries; indeed Mansfeld goes back for at least 750 years.

The celebrated Swedish mine of Falun has been working continuously since the 13th Century; production was at its peak in the 16th and 17th Centuries, when the fumes from the smelters effectually destroyed all the vegetation in the vicinity, a state of affairs that lasted for many years. In this connexion there is a well-known story which may well be true. In 1670, a young miner named Israelson, who was engaged to be married, accidentally perished in the mine. His body was not discovered until forty-nine years later, in 1719, when it was still so perfectly preserved by the fumes of copper vitriol that his former sweetheart, then an old woman, could still recognize him.

In Norway there are many small deposits of copper. One of the most important, at Kongsberg, was being exploited by A.D.1490, and others in Telemark by 1540.

Finland, which produced moderate quantities of the metal in the 19th Century, is now a substantial producer, despite the fact that some large and potentially very valuable deposits of copper-nickel at Petsamo were seized by Soviet Russia shortly after the last war. The Russians' own important copper mines, which are scattered along the Ural Mountains, began operations in 1700. The Soviet Union also discovered very valuable deposits during the 1930s, in Kazakstan, near the southern end of Lake Baikal; the loss of territory in 1941-2, when most of European Russia was occupied by the Germans, brought about a wonderful industrial transformation in what up till then had been a sparsely populated, semi-desert wilderness.

In the East, small Indian mines have been worked on and off for many centuries. Japanese copper records go back to at least A.D. 700, when a locally derived copper ingot was presented to the Emperor. There are quite a number of deposits of varying importance now being worked in the main island. China, too, contains numerous copper mines.