Zinc facts

Zinc is mined, refined and recycled for commercial use in Canada. Beyond its many applications, zinc is also an essential nutrient in the body.

Key facts

  • The primary use of zinc is in galvanizing, which protects iron and steel from rusting
  • In 2017, Canada produced 344,294 tonnes of zinc from mines located in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick
  • China was the world’s largest producer of refined zinc metal in 2017, accounting for 45% of world production

Learn more about zinc

Uses

The primary use of zinc is in galvanizing, which protects iron and steel from rusting. However, zinc can also be alloyed with other metals and used for die casting into shapes such as door handles, alloyed with copper to make brass, and alloyed with copper and tin to make bronze.

Brass fittings are used in Canadian households across the country in plumbing and heat exchange equipment.

Zinc can also be added to fertilizers to increase crop yields, made into zinc oxide (an ingredient in skin cream), and used in the manufacture of tires.

Zinc, global uses, 2017

Text version

This circular chart shows the major global uses of zinc as of 2017. The largest use is for galvanizing (50%), followed by alloy production (17%), brass and bronze production (17%), semi-manufacturing (6%), in chemicals (6%) and in other miscellaneous products (4%).

Production

In 2017, mined zinc production increased in Canada from the previous year. Refined zinc metal was produced at refineries in British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec.

Find out more about Canadian production of zinc:

Canadian mine production of zinc, by province and territory, 2017 (p)
Ranking  Province Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 Manitoba 137.0 39.8%
2 Quebec 94.0 27.3%
3 Ontario 72.0 21.0%
4 New Brunswick 41.0 11.9%
Total   344.0 100.0%

Canadian mine production of zinc, 2008–2017 (p)

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This bar graph shows Canada’s annual mine production of zinc from 2008 to 2017. Production was 750,502 tonnes in 2008 and 344,294 tonnes in 2017.

Canadian refined production of zinc, 2008–2017 (p)

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This bar graph shows Canada’s refined production of zinc from 2008 to 2017. Production was 764,310 tonnes in 2008 and 598,415 tonnes in 2017.

International context

Find out more about mined and refined zinc production on an international scale:

World mine production of zinc, by country, 2017 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 China 5,192 39.2%
2 Peru 1,473 11.1%
3 India 850 6.4%
4 United States 783 5.9%
5 Australia 747 5.6%
6 Mexico 677 5.1%
7 Bolivia 497 3.8%
8 Kazakhstan 375 2.8%
9 Canada 344 2.6%
- Other countries 2,292 17.3%
Total   13,230 100%

World mine production of zinc reached 13.2 million tonnes in 2017.

World mine production of zinc, 2008–2017 (p)

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This bar graph shows the world’s annual mine production of zinc from 2008 to 2017. Production was 11.8 million tonnes in 2008 and 13.2 million tonnes in 2017.

Canada ranked fourth among the world’s producers of refined zinc in 2017.

World refined production of zinc, by country, 2017 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 China 6,220 45%
2 South Korea 1,014 7%
3 India 819 6%
4 Canada 598 4%
5 Spain 507 4%
6 Australia 469 3%
- Other countries 4,139 30%
Total   13,724 100%

World refined zinc metal production, which includes zinc from both mined sources and recycled material, totalled 13.7 million tonnes in 2017.

World refined production of zinc, 2008–2017 (p)

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This bar graph shows the world’s annual refined production of zinc from 2008 to 2017. Production was 11.8 million tonnes in 2008 and 13.7 million tonnes in 2017.

World reserves

The world’s total zinc reserves, as calculated by the U.S. Geological Survey, were estimated at 230 million tonnes in 2017. Australia, China and Peru are among the nations with the largest zinc reserves in the world. Canada is eighth with 5.4 million tonnes.

World zinc reserves, by country, 2017 (p)

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This circular chart shows the estimated world reserves of zinc in 2017, by country and in percentages. Australia had the largest share with 28%, followed by China (18%), Peru (12%), Mexico (9%), Kazakhstan (6%), India (5%), United States (4%), Canada (2%) and other countries (16%).

Trade

Exports

  • Total exports of zinc and zinc products from Canada in 2017 were valued at $2.1 billion
  • Canada exported 453,100 tonnes of unwrought zinc and other zinc metal products in 2017, compared with 537,000 tonnes in 2016
  • Zinc metal was exported primarily to the United States (87%), with minor amounts shipped to China, Thailand and Malaysia

Imports

  • In 2017, zinc and zinc products imported to Canada were valued at $1.1 billion
  • Canadian smelters imported 323,000 tonnes of zinc in concentrates in 2017, compared with 414,000 tonnes in 2016
  • Concentrates were imported mainly from the United States, Bolivia, Namibia and Mexico

Prices

Prices generally rose throughout 2017, from US$2,713 per tonne in January to a high of US$3,274 per tonne in October, followed by some weakening in November and December, and closing the year at US$3,192 per tonne.

Zinc, average monthly prices, 2008–2017

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This line graph shows the monthly average price in US dollars per tonne of zinc from 2008 to 2017. In 2008, the average annual price of zinc was $1,900 per tonne. In 2017, the average annual price of zinc was $2,894 per tonne, and the monthly prices were as follows: $2,713 (January); $2,848 (February); $2,782 (March); $2,633 (April); $2,590 (May); $2,572 (June); $2,785 (July); $2,982 (August); $3,120 (September); $3,274 (October); $3,236 (November); and $3,192 (December).

Recycling

Approximately 25% of global zinc demand is supplied from recycled materials. Sources of recycled zinc include scrap galvanized steel and zinc contained in batteries. Products like galvanized steel have a long service life, which affects the amount of material available to the marketplace for recycling in any given year.

Notes and sources

(p) preliminary

Totals may be different because of rounding.

All dollars are Canadian unless otherwise indicated.

Uses

  • Zinc, global uses, 2017
    • International Lead and Zinc Study Group

Production

  • Canadian mine production of zinc, by province and territory, 2017 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian mine production of zinc, 2008–2017 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian refined production of zinc, 2008–2017 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada

International context

  • World mine production of zinc, by country, 2017 (p)
    • International Lead and Zinc Study Group
  • World mine production of zinc, 2008–2017 (p)
    • International Lead and Zinc Study Group
  • World refined production of zinc, by country, 2017 (p)
    • International Lead and Zinc Study Group
  • World refined production of zinc, 2008–2017 (p)
    • International Lead and Zinc Study Group
  • World zinc reserves, by country, 2017 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey

Prices

  • Zinc, average monthly prices, 2008–2017
    • London Metal Exchange