Zinc is the fourth most widely used metal after iron, aluminum, and copper. Zinc is used as corrosion-protection coatings on steel (galvanized metal), as diecastings, as an alloying metal with copper to make brass, and as chemical compounds in rubber, ceramics, paints, and agriculture. It is also a necessary element for proper growth and development of humans, animals, and plants.
Zinc is mined in more than 50 countries and is produced as metal and compounds in about 40 countries. In 1990, the leading ore-producing countries were Canada, Australia, and the U.S.S.R., in order of mine production; the leading metal-producing countries were the U.S.S.R., Japan, and Canada, in order of primary smelter production. The United States accounted for only about 7% of world mine output and about 5% of world smelter production in the same year. This was not always so; during most of the 1900-70 period, the United States was the world's leading mine and smelter producer of zinc and, in the 1950's, accounted for more than one-half of world metal production. From the late 1960's to the mid-1980's, U.S. mine and smelter output declined by one-half and two-thirds, respectively. Mine production rose to former levels in 1989 and 1990 owing to the opening of a large zinc mine in Alaska. Smelter capacity, however, only marginally increased and, in 1990, was only about 40% of that of 1968.
The United States has been the leading world consumer of zinc since the early 1900's and currently consumes about one- seventh of world output. As a result of the substantial decline in domestic zinc smelter capacity, reliance on metal imports remains high. Ironically, the United States has become a major world exporter of zinc concentrate, but continues to be the world's largest importer of refined zinc.
- Table 1.--U.S. historical salient zinc statistics
- Table 2.--Mine production of recoverable zinc in the United States, by State
- Table 3.--Primary and secondary slab zinc produced in the United States
- Table 4.--U.S. production of selected zinc compounds, zinc content
- Table 5.--Consumption of slab zinc, by industry
- Table 6.--U.S. consumption of zinc
- Table 7.--Yearend stocks of slab zinc in the United States
- Table 8.--Average U.S., LME, and European producer prices for equivalent zinc
- Table 9.--U.S. imports for consumption of zinc
- Table 10.--U.S. exports of zinc
- Table 11.--Zinc: World mine production
- Table 12.--Zinc: World smelter production, by country
- Table 13.--Zinc: 5-year averages of recoverable mine production and value, by region, 1907-91
- Table 14.--Zinc consumption of new and old scrap in the United States, by type of scrap
- Table 15.--Zinc recovered from scrap processed in the United States, by kind of scrap and form of recovery
- Table 16.--U.S. imports for consumption of zinc, by four leading countries
- Table 17.--U.S. zinc metal and mine refinery production, capacity, and capacity utilization 1967-90