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 2016, Canada produced 322,000 tonnes of zinc from mines located in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. 
  • China was the world’s largest producer of refined zinc metal, accounting for 46% 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 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 and made into zinc oxide which is an ingredient in skin cream and used in the manufacture of tires.

Zinc, global uses, 2016

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This pie chart shows the major global uses of zinc as of 2016. The largest use is for galvanizing (50%), followed by alloy production (17%), brass and bronze production (17%), semi-fabricating (6%), in chemicals (6%) and in other miscellaneous products (4%).

Production

In 2016, both mined and refined zinc production increased in Canada from the previous year. Mined production of zinc increased largely because Trevali Mining’s Caribou mine in New Brunswick achieved commercial production in 2016. 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, 2016 (p)
Ranking  Province Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 Manitoba 115 35.7%
2 Quebec 91 28.4%
3 Ontario 78 24.4%
4 New Brunswick 37 11.5%
- Total 322 100.0%

Canadian mine production of zinc, 2007–2016 (p)

Text version

This bar chart shows Canada’s annual mine production of zinc from 2007 to 2016. Production was 630,485 tonnes in 2007 and 321,757 tonnes in 2016.

Canadian refined production of zinc, 2007–2016 (p)

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This bar chart shows Canada’s refined production of zinc from 2007 to 2016. Production was 802,103 tonnes in 2007 and 691,389 tonnes in 2016.

International context

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

World mine production of zinc, by country, 2016 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 China 5,545 41.9%
2 Peru 1,336 10.1%
3 Australia 898 6.8%
4 United States 806 6.1%
5 Mexico 694 5.2%
6 India 683 5.2%
- Other countries 3,263 24.7%
- Total 13,225 100.0%

World mine production of zinc reached 13.2 million tonnes in 2016.

World mine production of zinc, 2007–2016 (p)

Text version

This bar chart shows the world’s annual mine production of zinc from 2007 to 2016. Production was 11.1 million tonnes in 2007 and 13.2 million tonnes in 2016.

Canada ranked third for world production of refined zinc metal in 2016.

World refined production of zinc, by country, 2016 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 China 6,274 46%
2 South Korea 1,014 7%
3 Canada 686 5%
4 India 620 5%
5 Japan 533 4%
6 Spain 510 4%
7 Australia 460 3%
- Other countries 3,566 26%

World refined zinc metal production, which includes zinc from both mined sources and recycled material, totalled 13.7 million tonnes in 2016.

World refined production of zinc, 2007–2016 (p)

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This bar chart shows the world’s annual refined production of zinc from 2007 to 2016. Production was 11.3 million tonnes in 2007 and 13.7 million tonnes in 2016.

World reserves

The world’s total zinc reserves, as calculated by the U.S. Geological Survey, were an estimated 220 million tonnes in 2016. Australia, China and Peru are among the nations with the largest zinc reserves in the world. Canada is eighth with 5.7 million tonnes.

World zinc reserves, by country, 2016 (p)

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This pie chart shows the estimated world reserves of zinc by country in percentages in 2016. Australia had the largest share with 29%, followed by China (18%), Peru (11%), Mexico (8%), Canada (3%) and other countries (32%). Canada ranked eighth in the world for global zinc reserves.

Trade

Exports

  • Total exports of zinc and zinc products from Canada were valued at $1.8 billion in 2016.
  • Canada exported 537,000 tonnes of unwrought zinc and other zinc metal products in 2016, compared to 513,000 tonnes in 2015.
  • Zinc metal was exported primarily to the United States (94%), with minor amounts shipped to China, Thailand and Malaysia.

Imports

  • In 2016, zinc and zinc products imported to Canada were valued at $806 million.
  • Canadian smelters imported 414,000 tonnes of zinc in concentrates in 2016, compared to 532,000 tonnes in 2015.
  • Concentrates were imported mainly from the United States, Bolivia, Peru and Mexico.

Prices

Prices rose consistently throughout 2016 from US$1,512 per tonne in January to US$2,672 per tonne in December.

Zinc, average monthly prices, 2007–2016

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This line chart shows the monthly average price in U.S. dollars per tonne of zinc from 2007 to 2016. In 2007, the average annual price of zinc was $3,237 per tonne. In 2016, the average annual price of zinc was $2,090 per tonne and the monthly prices were: January, $1,512; February, $1,711; March, $1,805; April, $1,852; May, $1,871; June, $2,023; July, $2,185; August, $2,283; September, $2,293; October, $2,314; November, $2,569; and December, $2,672.

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, 2016
    • International Lead and Zinc Study Group

Production

  • Canadian mine production of zinc, by province and territory, 2016 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian mine production of zinc, 2007–2016 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian refined production of zinc, 2007–2016 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada

International context

  • World mine production of zinc, by country, 2016 (p)
    • International Lead and Zinc Study Group
  • World mine production of zinc, 2007–2016 (p)
    • International Lead and Zinc Study Group
  • World refined production of zinc, by country, 2016 (p)
    • International Lead and Zinc Study Group
  • World refined production of zinc, 2007–2016 (p)
    • International Lead and Zinc Study Group
  • World zinc reserves, by country, 2016 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey

Prices

  • Zinc, average monthly prices, 2007–2016
    • London Metal Exchange