Mined in more than 50 countries, zinc is the 4th most widely used metal after aluminum, iron and copper. Its mostly used as an alloying metal with copper to make brass, as corrosion-protection coatings on steel, as diecastings and as a chemical compounds in rubber, ceramics, paints, and agriculture. Also it’s found to be a necessary element for proper growth and development of living beings. About 80% of the world’s zinc is obtained through underground mining, while about 8% is mined via open pits with the rest using a combo of both methods. Zinc mine operators include Nyrstar, Xstrata, Boliden AB, Teck Resources.

In 90’s, the leading ore-producing countries in terms of mine production were Australia, Canada and the U.S.S.R. While the leading metal-producing countries in terms of primary smelter production were the Japan, U.S.S.R and Canada. In the same year the US accounted for only about 7% of world mine output and about 5% of world smelter production. This was not always so as during most of the 1900 to 70’s period, the US was the world’s leading mine and smelter producer of zinc and, in the 50’s, accounted for more than 50% of world metal production. From the late 60’s to the mid-80’s, U.S. mine and smelter production declined by 1/2 and 2/3, respectively. USA returned to its formal glory in 1989 and 1990 owing to the opening of a large zinc mine in Alaska. Currently USA is one of the largest producers of zinc. Zinc mining in the US produced an all-time high of 820,000 metric tons of zinc in 2014, making it the world’s 4th largest zinc producer, after Australia, China and Peru.

Mines in Alaska accounts for more than 50% of the USA’s zinc and lead. Opened in 1989 the Red Dog mine is the world’s largest producer of zinc and has the world’s largest zinc reserves. An open-pit truck-and-loader operation which uses conventional drill and blast mining methods, the Red Dog is located about 170 kms north of the Arctic Circle in northwest Alaska, near Kotzebue and its mine site is only accessible by air. 

Operated by the commercial mining company Teck Resources in partnership with NANA Development Corporation the Red Dog accounts for 10% of the world’s zinc production. It accounted for more than 55% of the mineral value produced in Alaska in 2008. As the mine produced 515,200 metric tons of zinc, 122,600 metric tons of lead, and 283 metric tons of silver, for a total metal value of over one billion dollars. At the end of 2008 the mine had reserves of 61,400,000 metric tons of zinc at a grade of 17.1% and 61,400,000 tonnes of lead at a grade of 4.5%, as well as notable additional lead and zinc in the less well-measured resource category. In 2014, 609,000 metric tons of zinc, 78% of US mined zinc output, and 4.6% of world zinc output, came from the Red Dog mine.

The value of

  • zinc mined in US
  • Satistics of Zinc Mines In USA

    in 2003, based on contained zinc recoverable from concentrate, was about $664 mill. Produced in five States by ten mines operated by seven companies.Missouri, Alaska and Tennessee accounted for 97% of domestic mine output; the Red Dog Mine in Alaska alone accounted for about 3/4 of the total U.S. production. Current zinc-mining districts in US along with Alaska are Idaho, Missouri, and Tennessee. 

Another mine the Gordonsville mine is situated near Nashville and produces 45 000 t zinc per year as well as a substantial amount of germanium (one of the largest sources in the world). The Clinch Valley Mine is located north of Knoxville, and has the potential to produces 12 000t zinc per year.

Currently US is a little struggling with zinc production as the US produced 780,000 MT of zinc in 2016, a slight decrease from 2015’s 825,000 MT. The reason for this decrease in production was mainly due to the closure of Nyrstar Middle Tennessee mines in December 2015. The mines were able to produce 50,000 tonnes of zinc in concentrate per year. 

Looking at today’s market zinc is the best performing major metal throughout the mineral commodities market. As with declining supply due to closure of two major mines the demand for zinc keeps growing especially in Asia. Similarly both the US and EU have also seen growth in zinc demand. Along with being the leading producer the US has also been the leading world consumer of zinc since the early 1900’s and currently consumes about 1/7th of world output. As a result of the considerable decrease in domestic zinc smelter capacity, reliance on imports of metal remains high. Ironically, the United States is a major world exporter of zinc concentrate, but at the same time continues to be the world’s largest importer of refined zinc. In 2013, 935,000 tons of zinc was consumed by US.