15Jan 2017

11 Things Every Metal Investor Needs to Know About Zinc

Certain commodities tend to fly under the radar for periods of time.

For example, it was only in the last couple of years that markets have been able to digest the potential impact of the electric vehicle boom, and what it may mean for raw materials. The lithium, graphite, and cobalt prices reacted accordingly, and suddenly these essential ingredients for lithium-ion batteries were hot commodities.

Another one of those metals that comes and goes is zinc – and after shooting up in price over 35% this year, it definitely has the attention of many investors and speculators again.

 

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

Here’s why the metal is back in fashion:

1. Zinc is a $34 billion per year market.
It’s bigger than the silver ($18 billion), platinum ($8 billion), and molybdenum ($5 billion) markets combined. In fact, it is the fourth-most used metal worldwide.

2. Zinc smelting and production technology came way later than it did for other metals.
The ancients were able to smelt copper, lead, and iron, but it wasn’t until much later that people were able to work with zinc in any isolated state.

3. Even despite this, it was a crucial metal for ancient peoples.
They would smelt zinc-rich copper ores to make brass, which was used for many different purposes including weaponry, ornaments, coins, and armor.

4. Zinc is also crucial to produce many alloys today.
For example, brass is used for musical instruments and hardware applications that must resist corrosion. Solder and nickel-silver are other important alloys.

5. The world’s first-ever battery used zinc as an anode.
The voltaic pile, made in 1799 by Alessandro Volta, used zinc and copper for electrodes with brine-soaked paper as an electrolyte.

6. The metal remains crucial for batteries today.
Zinc-air, silver-zinc, zinc-bromine, and alkaline batteries all use zinc, and they enable everything from hearing aids to military applications to be possible.

7. Galvanizing is still the most important use.
About 50% of the metal is used in galvanizing, which is essentially a way to coat steel or iron so that it doesn’t rust.

8. China is both a major producer and end-user.
China mined 37% of the world’s 13.4 million tonnes of zinc production in 2015. It consumed 47% of the world’s supply that same year.

9. Major mines have been shutting down.
In 2016, China ordered the shutdown of 26 lead and zinc mines in parts of the Hunan province for environmental reasons. Meanwhile, Ireland’s Lisheen Mine and Australia’s Century Mine both shut down last year after being depleted of resources. That takes 630,000 tonnes of annual production off the table.

10. Stockpiles are dwindling.
Warehouse levels are less than half of where they were in 2013.

11. Zinc has been one of the best performing metals in 2016 in terms of price.
It started the year around $0.70/lb, but now it trades for $1.04/lb.

JEFF DESJARDINS

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