In a country where copper is the national currency, people in some parts of the country are using it to buy groceries, buy a car and even pay for the upkeep of a house.
And if that’s not enough, there are many other ways to use the mineral in different places.
Some of them are pretty mundane.
Copper is mined in China and it’s found in a variety of products, including jewellery, toothpaste, clothes, household goods, toilet paper, soap, batteries, batteries and a range of other products.
But it’s the copper in copper nails that is particularly useful.
Coat them yourself, buy them online or sell them as scrap metal.
It’s not hard to find someone who’s willing to sell you copper nails or copper cow products, even if they don’t have a clue about copper.
“I have one guy who’s selling copper nails for just under $20, which is ridiculous,” said one person I spoke to.
“But that’s the kind of guy he is.”
While copper nails are very common in some countries, they’re more commonly found in China.
In the US, the United States Geological Survey has identified about 50 different copper mines and mines near the city of Los Angeles, California.
But copper cow mining is a relatively new process in China, and the industry has only recently started to emerge.
“They’re not in a rush to catch up with the US,” said Gary Codd, an associate professor at University of Colorado Boulder and co-author of a study that looked at copper mining in China from 2014 to 2019.
“Copper cow is a big new thing for them, and they’ve just started to catch on in China,” he said.
There are currently no plans to expand copper cow operations to the US.
The copper industry in China has also seen a surge in exports.
A report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific found that China’s copper exports jumped more than 40 per cent in the last year.
This has led to increased demand from China for copper products, which has resulted in a sharp increase in the price of copper in the US and Canada.
But some copper farmers say the market is growing too fast.
In many places, people are using copper nails to pay for basic expenses.
In some parts, copper cows are even being used to buy petrol, and sometimes even to pay their debts.
Coal miners are also finding it increasingly difficult to compete in the global copper market.
Last year, the US Geological Survey reported that China was the biggest market for US copper.
But that’s only because China is an increasingly important producer of copper.
Co-author and University of Queensland professor, Dr David Levenson, says it’s becoming increasingly difficult for US mines to compete with Chinese mines.
“If you look at the copper market in the past 20 years, China has always been the biggest, the largest, the biggest copper producer, but China has been able to grow to the top of the market, while the US has stagnated and shrunk,” he told Al Jazeera.
“The situation has changed in recent years.”
It is not only the copper industry that is struggling.
In Australia, the mining industry has also suffered.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics says there were about 20,000 copper mines in the country in 2019, and some of the most prolific copper miners are in Queensland and New South Wales.
But a growing number of mines are closing, including the state’s largest copper mine, the Ballymanduca mine.
“We’ve seen a lot of closures, particularly in Queensland, with the closure of the Balymanduca copper mine in the late 2000s,” said Professor Levensons research director, Dr Daniel Dyson.
“There have been a lot more mines shut down in the mining sector.”
The industry is also seeing a downturn in production.
Coppell’s Copper Mine in South Australia closed down in December 2017.
The company’s head of copper operations, John Taylor, said the company was losing a lot in the business.
“At the time, it was a good business, it had a good turnover, and we had a stable balance sheet, but the business is in disarray,” he says.
“It’s been a very challenging time for us, it’s been challenging for the workers, it is challenging for our customers, and it is a very, very tough time for our business.”
Some copper miners in South Australian mines are using their profits to buy land in the state, hoping to create a new copper boom.
“For me, the idea is to have a good balance of profits from mining, from the land, and from other sources,” Mr Taylor said.
“And to have another revenue stream, a better business, so we can reinvest that profit into other businesses that need it.”
But some miners are not convinced by the move to new businesses.
“When you start a new