Zinc is the fourth most common metal in use, trailing only iron, aluminium, and copper with an annual world production of about 13 million tonnes. This production has been stable for three years even as demand increases, and the metal is widely expected to cross into a supply deficit in 2017.
About 70% of the world’s zinc originates from mining, whereas the remaining 30% comes from recycling secondary zinc. Sixty percent of zinc is used for galvanizing to protect steel from corrosion thus prolonging the service life of steel products significantly. Approximately 15% goes into the production of zinc base alloys, mainly to supply the die casting industry, 14% goes into the production of brass and bronze and 8% into the production of compounds including zinc oxide and zinc sulfate. The remainder is zinc alloys, mainly rolled, utilized in semi-manufactured applications including coinage and architectural applications.
By far the largest application area for zinc is construction which uses 45% of all first-use zinc products. The transportation sector consumes 25% of global zinc consumption, mainly in cars and trucks, while consumer goods – including electrical and electronic appliances - accounts for 23%. The remaining 7% is used for the manufacture of industrial machinery. A small but growing amount of zinc is used in agricultural fertilizers.