Zinc: An Essential, Remarkable Metal

May 22, 2024

With 20% of the world’s energy supply currently generated from renewable sources, the transition to cleaner power sources is underway. But looking ahead, the world needs to rethink how it generates, stores, and distributes energy to meet carbon reduction goals.

The Zinc Equation 

For some, zinc might seem like a secondary metal but in reality it is a powerhouse; an indispensable element with a key role touching every corner of the renewable energy sector. In fact, zinc is one of the most versatile materials known to humankind, and the fourth most used metal in the world behind iron, aluminum, and copper.  

According to the American Galvanizers Association, more than 11 million tons of zinc are consumed annually worldwide. Roughly 50 percent of the annual production, or approximately 5.5 million tons of zinc, is used for galvanizing to protect steel from corrosion. Galvanized coatings extend the life of iron and steel used in bridge rails, support beams, railway tracks, highway guard rails, and public transportation hubs, as well as offshore wind farms and ground-based solar installations. And in Alaska, we love our boats pulled on trailers made of - you guessed it - galvanized steel.

Zinc is also used in the design of high-energy rechargeable batteries capable of powering cell phone towers. With its superior ability to protect metals against corrosion and a growing role in energy storage, many experts are touting the qualities of zinc as essential in the evolving renewable energy landscape.

Powering An Energy Transition 

As energy transitions gather pace, zinc is one of the critical connectors:

The Alaska Factor

The top two largest producing zinc mines in the United State are located in Alaska: Red Dog Mine near Kotzebue and Hecla Greens Creek Mine near Juneau. According to Statista, Alaska is by far the most important U.S. state for zinc production.

Did You Know? Red Dog Mine is the first mining site to receive the stand-alone Zinc Mark (2024) in recognition of environmentally and socially responsible production practices.

Given zinc’s versatility and abundant availability in Alaska, the state, recognized for its environmental care, is primed to play a significant role securing a more sustainable future.