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 2018, Canada produced 266,565 tonnes of zinc from mines located in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and New Brunswick
  • China was the world’s largest producer of refined zinc metal in 2018, accounting for 43% 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, 2018

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This circular chart shows the major global uses of zinc as of 2018. 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 2018, 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, 2018 (p)
Ranking  Province Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 Manitoba 100.6 37.7%
2 Quebec 75.4 28.3%
3 Ontario 61.8 23.2%
4 New Brunswick 28.8 10.8%
Total   266.6 100.0%

Canadian mine production of zinc, 2009–2018 (p)

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This bar graph shows Canada’s annual mine production of zinc from 2009 to 2018. Production was 698,900 tonnes in 2009 and 286,225 tonnes in 2018.

Canadian refined production of zinc, 2009–2018 (p)

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This bar graph shows Canada’s refined production of zinc from 2009 to 2018. Production was 685,503 tonnes in 2009 and 695,566 tonnes in 2018.

International context

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

World mine production of zinc, by country, 2018 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 China 4,311 33.8%
2 Peru 1,475 11.6%
3 India 740 5.8%
4 United States 858 6.7%
5 Australia 1,112 8.7%
6 Mexico 691 5.4%
7 Bolivia 550 4.3%
8 Kazakhstan 345 2.7%
9 Canada 286 2.2%
- Other countries 2,375 18.6%
Total   12,743 100.0%

World mine production of zinc reached 12.7 million tonnes in 2018.

World mine production of zinc, 2009–2018 (p)

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This bar graph shows the world’s annual mine production of zinc from 2009 to 2018. Production was 11.5 million tonnes in 2009 and 12.7 million tonnes in 2018.

Canada ranked fourth among the world’s producers of refined zinc in 2018.

World refined production of zinc, by country, 2018 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 China 5,670 43.1%
2 South Korea 866 6.6%
3 India 746 5.7%
4 Canada 696 5.3%
5 Spain 526 4.0%
6 Australia 490 3.7%
- Other countries 4,139 31.7%
Total   13,169 100.0%

World refined zinc metal production, which includes zinc from both mined sources and recycled material, totalled 13.2 million tonnes in 2018.

World refined production of zinc, 2009–2018 (p)

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This bar graph shows the world’s annual refined production of zinc from 2009 to 2018. Production was 11.2 million tonnes in 2009 and 13.2 million tonnes in 2018.

World reserves

The world’s total zinc reserves, as calculated by the U.S. Geological Survey, were estimated at 225 million tonnes in 2018. Australia, China and Peru are among the nations with the largest zinc reserves in the world. Canada is ninth with 3 million tonnes.

World zinc reserves, by country, 2018 (p)

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This circular chart shows the estimated world reserves of zinc in 2018, by country and in percentages. Australia had the largest share with 28%, followed by China (20%), Peru (9%), Mexico (9%), Kazakhstan (6%), United States (5%), India (5%), Bolivia (2%), Canada (1%), and other countries (15%).

Trade

Exports

  • Total exports of zinc and zinc products from Canada in 2018 were valued at $2.6 billion.
  • Canada exported 651,584 tonnes of unwrought zinc and other zinc metal products in 2018, compared with 547,221 tonnes in 2017.
  • Zinc metal was exported primarily to the United States (87%), with minor amounts shipped to Taiwan, China, and Malaysia.

Imports

  • In 2018, zinc and zinc products imported to Canada were valued at $1.2 billion
  • Canadian smelters imported 529,406 tonnes of zinc in concentrates in 2018, compared with 445,945 tonnes in 2017.
  • Concentrates were imported mainly from the United States, Bolivia, Mexico and Peru.

Prices

Prices generally fell throughout 2018. They started the year at US$3,442 per tonne in January and rose to US$3,533 per tonne in February. The price then declined until September where it settled at $2,435 per tonne. The price recovered slightly to close out the year in December at US$2,616 per tonne.

Zinc, average monthly prices, 2009–2018

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This line graph shows the monthly average price in US dollars per tonne of zinc from 2009 to 2018. In 2009, the average annual price of zinc was $1,655 per tonne. In 2018, the average annual price of zinc was $2,922 per tonne, and the monthly prices were as follows: $3,442 (January); $3,533 (February); $3,269 (March); $3,188 (April); $3,060 (May); $3,089 (June); $2,656 (July); $2,512 (August); $2,435 (September); $2,674 (October); $2,596 (November); and $2,616 (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, 2018
    • International Lead and Zinc Study Group

Production

  • Canadian mine production of zinc, by province and territory, 2018 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian mine production of zinc, 2009–2018 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian refined production of zinc, 2009–2018 (p)
    • International Lead and Zinc Study Group

International context

  • World mine production of zinc, by country, 2018 (p)
    • International Lead and Zinc Study Group
  • World mine production of zinc, 2009–2018 (p)
    • International Lead and Zinc Study Group
  • World refined production of zinc, by country, 2018 (p)
    • International Lead and Zinc Study Group
  • World refined production of zinc, 2009–2018 (p)
    • International Lead and Zinc Study Group
  • World zinc reserves, by country, 2018 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey

Prices

  • Zinc, average monthly prices, 2009–2018
    • World Bank Commodities