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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 human body.

Key facts

  • The primary use of zinc is in the galvanizing process, which protects iron and steel from rusting.
  • In 2020, Canada produced 184,846 tonnes of zinc from mines located in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and New Brunswick.
  • World mine production of zinc was approximately 12.0 million tonnes in 2020.

Learn more about zinc

Uses

The primary use of zinc is in the galvanizing process, which protects iron and steel from rusting. 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 made with zinc are used across Canada 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 tire manufacturing.

Zinc, global uses, 2020

circular chart
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This circular chart shows the major global uses of zinc in 2020. The largest use is for galvanizing (60%), followed by die-cast alloy production (13%), brass and castings (11%), oxides and chemicals (9%), semi-manufacturing (5%), and in other miscellaneous products (2%).

Production

In 2020, mined zinc production decreased in Canada to 185,000 tonnes from 264,000 tonnes in 2019. Canadian mined zinc production has been steadily decreasing since 2012. Refined zinc metal production in 2020 is estimated to have reached 680,000 tonnes. Zinc metal is produced at refineries in British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec.

Consult a map of producing Canadian mines

Canadian mine production of zinc, 2011–2020 (p)

bar graph
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This bar graph shows Canada’s annual mine production of zinc from 2011 to 2020. Production was 591,004 tonnes in 2011 and increased to a peak of 601,514 tonnes in 2012. Production then started to decrease, falling to 275,410 tonnes by 2015 before increasing slightly to 305,314 tonnes by 2017 and then falling again to 184,846 tonnes by 2020.

Canadian production of refined zinc, 2011–2020 (p)

bar graph
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This bar graph shows Canada’s refined production of zinc from 2011 to 2020. Production was 662,151 tonnes in 2011 and then decreased to 648,619 tonnes by 2012. Production remained stable between 2012 and 2014 before increasing to 691,389 tonnes by 2016. A sharp decrease to 598,438 tonnes occurred in 2017, which is a 10-year low. Production rebounded to 696,591 tonnes in 2018 before decreasing slightly to 654,971 tonnes in 2019. Production in 2020 is estimated to have been 680,245 tonnes.

International context

World mine production of zinc was approximately 12.0 million tonnes in 2020, which is a 6% decline from the previous year. China was the largest producer of zinc with 4.2 million tonnes or 35% of the global total. Canada ranked eleventh, accounting for about 2% of the total.

World mine production of zinc, by country, 2020 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 China 4,200 34.8%
2 Australia 1,400 11.6%
3 Peru 1,200 9.9%
4 India 720 6.0%
5 United States 670 5.5%
6 Mexico 600 5.0%
7 Bolivia 330 2.7%
8 Kazakhstan 300 2.5%
9 Russia 260 2.2%
10 Sweden 220 1.8%
11 Canada 185 1.5%
- Other countries 2,000 16.5%
Total   12,000 100%*

*Total is rounded

World mine production of zinc, 2011–2020 (p)

bar graph
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This bar graph shows the world’s annual mine production of zinc from 2011 to 2020. Production was 12.8 million tonnes in 2011 and increased to a 10-year high of 13.5 million tonnes in 2012. Production then began an annual decline, reaching 12.5 million tonnes in 2017 and 2018 before increasing to 12.7 million tonnes in 2019. Preliminary estimates for 2020 suggest production could have fallen to 12.0 million tonnes in 2020.

Global production of refined zinc reached about 13.7 million tonnes in 2020, up 2% from 2019. Canada accounted for about 5% of global production in 2020.

World production of refined zinc, 2011–2020 (p)

bar graph
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This bar graph shows the world’s annual production of refined zinc from 2011 to 2020. Production was 13.1 million tonnes in 2011 and decreased to a 10-year low of 12.6 million tonnes in 2012. Annual increases reached a 10-year high of 13.8 million tonnes in 2015. Production then decreased to a low of 13.1 million tonnes in 2018 before increasing again to 13.7 million tonnes in 2020.

World reserves

The world’s zinc reserves were estimated at about 250 million tonnes in 2020, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Australia, China, Russia and Mexico were among the nations with the largest zinc reserves. Canada was eleventh with 2.3 million tonnes.

World zinc reserves, by country, 2020 (p)

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This circular chart shows the estimated world reserves of zinc in 2020, by country and percentages. Australia had the largest share with 27%, followed by China (18%). The other rankings include Mexico (9%), Russia (9%), Peru (7%), Kazakhstan (5%), United States (4%), India (3%), Bolivia (2%), Sweden (1%), Canada (1%), and other countries (14%).

Trade

Exports

  • Canadian exports of zinc and zinc products in 2020 were valued at $2.0 billion.
  • Canada exported 620,955 tonnes of unwrought zinc and other zinc metal products in 2020, up from 599,179 tonnes in 2019.
  • Zinc products were exported primarily to the United States (89%), while minor amounts were shipped to Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and China.

Imports

  • In 2020, zinc and zinc products imported to Canada were valued at $950.6 million.
  • Canadian smelters imported 460,279 tonnes of zinc in concentrates in 2020, compared to 502,255 tonnes in 2019.
  • Zinc concentrates accounted for 85% of the value of Canada’s zinc imports.
  • Concentrates were imported mainly from the United States (62%), followed by Peru (12%), Burkina Faso (9%), Australia (7%), Bolivia (5%), and Mexico (3%).

Prices

Zinc prices fell through the first quarter of 2020 but increased through the rest of the year. The price was US$2,354 per tonne in January, US$1,903 per tonne in April, and US$2,780 per tonne by December.

Zinc, average monthly prices, 2011–2020

line graph
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This line graph shows the monthly average price in US dollars per tonne of zinc from 2011 to 2020. In 2011, the average annual price of zinc was US$2,194 per tonne. In 2020, the average annual price of zinc was US$2,266 per tonne. The monthly prices in US dollars were $2,354 (January), $2,113 (February), $1,904 (March), $1,903 (April), $1,975 (May), $2,026 (June), $2,177 (July), $2,410 (August), $2,442 (September), $2,441 (October), $2,672 (November), and $2,780 (December).

Recycling

Approximately 30% of worldwide zinc production originates from recycled or secondary zinc. Sources of recycled zinc include scrap galvanized steel and the zinc contained in batteries. Products such as galvanized steel have a long service life, which affects the amount of recyclable material available to the marketplace 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, 2020
    • Wood Mackenzie

Production

  • Canadian mine production of zinc, by province and territory, 2019 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian mine production of zinc, 2011–2020 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian refined production of zinc, 2011–2020 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada, Statistics Canada
    • Refined zinc production for 2020 is based on monthly data. January production was suppressed by the source and estimated based on the reported average monthly production for the rest of the year.

International context

  • World mine production of zinc, by country, 2020 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey
  • World mine production of zinc, 2011–2020 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey
  • World production of refined zinc, 2011–2020 (p)
    • International Lead and Zinc Study Group
  • World zinc reserves, by country, 2020 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey

Trade

  • Natural Resources Canada; Statistics Canada
    • Mineral trade includes ores, concentrates, and semi- and final-fabricated mineral products.

Prices

  • Zinc, average monthly prices, 2011–2020
    • World Bank Commodities

Recycling

  • International Zinc Association
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