Global zinc mine production was 12mn mt in 2020, down 5.51pc from previous year, according to the U.S.Geological Survey (USGS).
China was the top producer of zinc in 2020 with 4.2mn mt followed by Australia at 1.4mn mt, up 5.26pc from the year prior. Zinc production in Peru stood at 1.2mn mt in 2020, down 14.29pc from 2019. India’s zinc production was flat at 720,000mt in 2020 compared to the previous year. US filled the last spot in the top five producers of zinc at 670,00mt, down 11pc from prior year.
The identified zinc resources globally are about 1.9bn mt at present. The International Lead and Zinc Study Group had estimated zinc production to increase in 2020 to around 13.60mn mt while metal consumption was forecast to decrease by 5pc to 12.98mn mt — which would have resulted in a surplus of 620,000mt.
Government induced lockdowns placed to limit COVID-19 cases and lower zinc prices resulted in production drop in many countries, mainly in South America.
Production in US
Production in the US stood at 670,000mt, down from 753,000mt or 11pc in 2020. Production of refined zinc stood at 150,000mt, up 30pc from the previous year. About 560,000mt of zinc in ores and concentrates was exported in 2020, a drop of 27pc from the prior year. In 2020, one-third of refined zinc produced in the US was recovered from secondary materials at both primary and secondary furnaces.
Substitutes for zinc
Zinc consumption in 2020 may have taken a hit given the various substitutes available for zinc. Aluminium and plastic substitutes in place of galvanized sheet in automobiles, aluminium alloys, cadmium, paint and plastic coating have replaced zinc coatings in other applications. Zinc diecasting alloys are threatened by aluminium and magnesium based alloys. There are several substitute for zinc in electronics, pigments and chemicals.