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Commodity
ZINC
Description | Overview | History | Zinc producing countries | Indian zinc market | Major trading centers
Description


Zinc is a not too hard metallic element, bluish white in color that is used in the formation of various alloys and also in electrical fuses, meter cases, roofing, gutters etc. In the scientific periodic table, zinc has the atomic number 30 and is known by the symbol Zn. Normally it is found in brittle form in the nature but when it is heated, it gets converted into malleable metal. The metal has a lustrous surface and is moderately reactive. As its a bit reactive element as compared to other elements like aluminium and copper, if not in the pure form, it is found in alloy form in the earth’s crust.

Overview


Zinc is considered to be the fourth most important metal used in the world following steel, aluminium and copper. This metal is primarily used in the steel industry for galvanizing process. The other uses include used in making coins and pennies, used in die-casting in automobile industry, making battery container parts, used as a substitute to tin and lead pipes, ingredient in water colors and paints, activator in rubber industry etc. Also because of the fact that zinc does not corrode due to the non-acidic atmospheric corrosion, it makes the metal worth to use in for extending the life of building structures and modes of transport. The metal also comes in good use as a fungicide, herbicide and rodenticide.

Zinc is available in the atmosphere in large quantities. The various external sources in which zinc is concentrated in the atmosphere are electric services, petroleum refining, crude petroleum and natural gas extraction, manufacturing of fabricated rubber products and metal heating and plumbing products, production of inorganic chemicals etc. The various indoor sources for the same contribute to slightly higher zinc content in the atmosphere and include infiltration of outdoor air; smoking, cooking, etc. Zinc is extracted from zinc ores mostly sphalerite, zincite and smithsonite and the world mine production of zinc concentrate sums up to around 10008000 tons annually. The zinc concentrates are then used to produce the zinc metal and around 10319000 metric tons of metal is produced per year. China is the largest producer country of zinc in the world in context of both metal and concentrate production.

The world consumption of zinc annually totals up to around 10774000 tons. The three major nations arising the highest demand for zinc are

  • China

  • USA

  • Japan

Regarding the zinc consumption pattern, the metal has a vast number of uses in different fields and more than 50% of zinc consumption is done by the automobile and construction industries. 20% of the total zinc demand arises from the alloy industry such as bronze, brass etc that are used in the construction and manufacturing sectors. The remaining 30% demand is shared equally by die cast zinc parts and other products like batteries, rubber goods etc. The consumption trend in the world has shown a rising trend during the last 50 years and is still increasing with the new changes in technology. Currently there is a deficit in the zinc world market when world supply and demand is compared and the deficit is as high as 455000 tons in context of metal and 766000 tons in context of mine production.

The major zinc players in the world market are Canada and China. Though china was a net exporter of the metal as it is the maximum zinc producer but its domestic consumption demand doesn’t allow the country to take a lead in the world exports. The major exporter countries of zinc metal along with their export figures are

  • Canada (712000 metric tons)

  • China (472000 metric tons)

  • Australia (443000 metric tons)

  • Korea (243000 metric tons)

  • Netherlands (210000 metric tons)

  • Finland (208000 metric tons)

  • Mexico (166000 metric tons)

  • France (143000 metric tons)

  • Norway (133000 metric tons)

  • Japan (95000 metric tons)

  • Spain (79000 metric tons)

The world exports of the zinc metal have been constantly decreasing and as there is a deficit in the world market now, the imports of the metal have become more than the exports done in the world. The major countries that import zinc with their import figures are

  • United States of America (878000 metric tons)

  • China and Taiwan (304000 metric tons)

  • Germany (231000 metric tons)

  • Belgium (215000 metric tons)

  • Italy (205000 metric tons)

  • Netherlands (199000 metric tons)

  • Singapore (148000 metric tons)

  • France (127000 metric tons)

  • Korea (110000 metric tons)

  • United Kingdom (105000 metric tons)

  • China (69000 metric tons)

History

Zinc is the element that is known and is used for centuries in the alloy forms. The most important alloy of zinc that is brass refers back to the times 1000 – 1400 BC and some zinc related ancient findings also date back to even prehistoric times in the land of Transylvania. But in the previous times, the true nature of the metal was not recognized due to the fact that zinc is moderately reactive and has a low boiling point. In that time, zinc was used for making various compounds and its ores were needed as a healing agent. Romans were the first one to make brass, an important zinc alloy, in the time of Augustus in a process where calamine and copper were heated together. In this process of melting ovens, the impure zinc, which was a remnant, was thrown away as trash thinking that it is worthless.

The world came to know regarding the extraction of zinc from zinc ores in around 1400 AD through the countries of India and China. It started in the Asian countries in around 1000 AD and at first this process of extraction didn’t get spread outside Asia and the western countries continued with their ignorance about the metal. In the year 1374, zinc got recognition as a new metal in India and the era of producing zinc commercially got started. The credit of the discovery of pure metallic zinc is given to a German chemist Andreas Marggraf in the year 1746. With time other techniques of extracting zinc from various ores were found out, and now zinc sulfide floatation process is considered to be the most effective process.

Zinc producing countries


As mentioned above zinc has been produced in the world for quite a along time and today also the zinc ores are being mined in more than 50 countries of the world. The pattern of zinc mine production in the world is not a concentrated pattern as there are over 266 mines indulging in the extraction of zinc but only around 19 mines are able to stretch their production over 100000 tons per annum. 80% of the zinc mines fall under the category of underground mines, 8% relate to the category of open mines and the remaining are a combination of both open and close mines. The total mine production of zinc ore in the world accounts up to around 10008000 metric tons with 64% share held by the underground mines. The major countries engaged in the zinc mine production are

  • China

  • Australia

  • Canada

  • Peru

  • United States of America

  • Namibia

  • Ireland

  • Sweden

The mine production has been in a reducing trend for quite some time now due to the fact that various mines in the world have been closed down. The fall in the world mine production has also affected the zinc concentrate production and zinc metal production adversely. The scenario is like many of the important world mines have announced their closure and many other important mines are on the verge of getting closed as the reserves are ending up. This has lead to a deficit of 455000 tons in context with the world zinc production in the world market as the world consumption figures have left the production figures behind. It is estimated that by 2011, zinc production will get reduced by almost 1.4 million and it would create a zinc gap till 2015. The metal production hovers around 10319000 metric tons. The leading countries in the zinc metal production list are

  • China

  • Canada

  • Japan

  • South Korea

  • Spain

The Asia pacific region holds the maximum share in the world zinc production as it has the highest smelter capacity in the world. China is the world leader in both the production of the metal as well as the mine production.

Production of zinc in India

India was one the first countries that started the process of extracting and smelting zinc. Since that time, the country is producing this metal and is one of the oldest countries to do that. Though, India is not a leading player in the production zinc but it is moving in the direction to get self reliant in this context. India has approximately 4.3% share in the total zinc smelter capacity in the Asia pacific region. The largest company, which was indulged in the production of zinc, is a public sector company named Hindustan Zinc Limited. But now, ever since the company got privatized, the Indian industry is completely in the hands of the private sector. It can be said that the zinc industry in India, after privatization, is heading towards a major expansion programme. The major zinc mines in India which were under the control of the company are

  • Rampura Agucha mine

  • Rajpura Dariba mine

  • Zawar mine

The smelting plants in India engaged in the production of zinc metal are

  • Chanderia Lead Zinc Smelter (CLZS) – Rajasthan

  • Debari Zinc Smelter (DZS) – Rajasthan

  • Vizag Zinc Smelter (VZS) – Andhra Pradesh

  • Binani Zinc Smelter – Kerala


Indian zinc market

 

As India was one of the first countries to gain the knowledge of extracting zinc from zinc ores and start the production of zinc metal, it should have been an important player in the world zinc market but this is not the current situation. India’s reputation regarding zinc is not significant as it just produces a small share of the metal in the world’s production and is not able to satisfy its domestic consumption demand making it a net importer of zinc.

 

Zinc production in India was in the hands of the government initially as all the operations in India relating to the metal were in the hands of a public sector company – Hindustan Zinc Limited. It was the biggest company in India, which took care of zinc extraction and its smelting process. But in April 2002, this company was privatized in favor Sterlite group and after that the Indian industry is in the hands of private sector completely. The current Indian demand for zinc stands at around 3.5 lakh tons that is fulfilled with the help of domestic production and imports too. About 70% of the Indian demand comes from the galvanizing sector. After privatizing the zinc sector it is expected that by 2010 the country would become self-reliant to satisfy the domestic demand. After that, India may transform into a net exporter of the metal.

 

Market influencing factors

  • Level of stocks with London Metal Exchange

  • Fluctuation in the world demand for zinc

  • Growth rate of the zinc producing countries

  • Changes in the prices of the other substitute metals

  • Funds in the zinc sector

Major trading centers of zinc


The largest zinc market in the world is the London Metal Exchange that affects the world demand and supply for zinc significantly.

Zinc is also traded in the Indian commodity exchanges like Multi Commodity Exchange of India, National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange of India and National Multi Commodity Exchange of India.

 
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