A strong resistance to corrosion means zinc has many industrial applications, particularly in steelmaking.

Zinc (Zn)

Zinc is a base metal that is primarily used to galvanise steel, as its anti-corrosion properties increasing the durability of products. It is also relatively easy to recycle and can be recycled multiple times, underlining its value in circular economy models. Recycled zinc is also likely to mitigate some of the risks associated with a moderately concentrated supply chain that is dependent on a few countries – particularly China – for supplies.

Zinc is only moderately exposed to ESG issues. Pollution is the primary ESG issue in the zinc supply chain. Pollution has been reported in several major zinc producers, including China, and at various stages of the supply chain – including in mining, refining, and recycling. Where environmental issues occur, the resultant health risks tend to act as a driver of company-community conflict.

Main Uses and Attributes

Zinc naturally occurs with other base and precious metals in the environment, particularly lead. The most common mineral containing zinc ores is sphalerite, although other important minerals are zincite, franklinite, calamine, and smithstone.1https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11367-016-1131-8#Sec22 Zinc has a low melting point and good thermal and electrical conductivity, which – combined with its hardiness – contributes to the usefulness of the material in industrial applications.

Over 60 percent of zinc is used to galvanise steel. Zinc protects the steel from rust and corrosion, increasing the product’s durability. A further 17 percent of zinc produced annually is used in die casting; zinc’s low melting point increases the speed of these processes, while zinc alloys’ uniform shrinkage characteristics aids precision. Zinc’s corrosion resistant characteristics also adds to its value in making brasses, which accounts for 10 percent of zinc use. The remaining zinc production is used in a range of manufacturing applications, such as zinc sheet in buildings. Compounds such as zinc oxide are used in fertilisers, in the rubber industry, and in personal care products, like sunscreen.2https://www.zinc.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2015/01/SD_Brochure_Update_Final_web.pdf, 3https://www.zinc.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/24/2015/04/pdf_Why_zn_diecastings.pdf

Main Uses

  • Cosmetics
  • Fertilisers
  • Metal Alloys
  • Paints
  • Steel

Key Industries

  • Automotive
  • Construction
  • Cosmetics
  • Electronics and Communications

Key Countries

Top Producer China
Top Reserves Australia

Supply Chain Risk

TDi assesses Zinc for key risks affecting the security of supply, and for its association with artisanal and small-scale mining.

Overall Supply Chain Resilience Risk
Strength of Association with ASM
Very Low Moderate Very High

Country Governance Risks

Zinc's association with countries experiencing:

Violence and Conflict
Weak Rule of Law
Poor Human Rights
Poor Environmental Governance
Very Low Moderate Very High

Association with ESG issues

TDi Sustainability's data rates Zinc's association with the following issues as high or very high:

Company/Community Conflicts
Very Low Moderate Very High

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