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Base Metal Industry Worldwide - Statistics & Facts

Base metals comprise most metals which are not precious metals and are widely used in commercial and industrial applications, such as construction and manufacturing. Some of the metals produced, shipped, and processed by the base metals industry include aluminum, copper, and zinc.

In 2020, the base metal industry had been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with global consumption slumping down. Refined zinc, for instance, saw a decrease in demand of close to four percent. The economic downturn and manufacturing halt due to the pandemic generated a drop in production in that same year. Copper production in Chile dipped by just under five percent year-on-year, and China’s zinc output slumped by 14 percent. This slump was felt in the revenues of the global leading companies, with Freeport-McMoRan’s total revenue dropping by over 200 million U.S. dollars year-on-year.

Aluminum is the leading segment

Of the base metals previously listed, aluminum counts as the most important non-ferrous metal, as well as the most abundant metal found in the Earth’s crust. Aluminum is largely used in the transport and construction industry, as well as within the engineering and packaging industries. China was the leading producer and exporter of aluminum and aluminum products, recording over 24.6 billion U.S. dollars in exports. This is in part due to the country’s excess capacity and over-production of the metal, driving the aluminum prices down. Chinalco was ranked as the world’s largest aluminum producing company in 2020, having produced about 6.6 million metric tons that year. It was followed by the China-based Hongqiao Group, at 5.7 million metric tons. Both companies dwarfed all other producers. By contrast, the United States and Germany were the world's leading importers of the metal, buying some 19 and 15.12 billion U.S. dollars worth of aluminum products respectively in 2020.

A diverse market

China further dwarfed all other markets in the production of lead and zinc, reaching output volumes of 1.8 million and 3.7 million metric tons respectively in 2020. However, most of this production was for domestic use. Australia and South Korea were the main exporters of zinc and lead respectively. Chile, home to the world’s largest copper reserves, was also the principal exporter in copper and copper products, reporting some 15.7 billion U.S. dollars earnings from the trade. Leading Chile-based company Codelco (Corporación Nacional del Cobre de Chile) produced over 1.7 million metric tons of copper in 2020.

Copper and its alloys have various uses; it is principally used as an electrical conductor in wires and cables, and also finds use in roofing and plumbing. Brass, a copper and zinc alloy, is used widely for musical instruments.

Interesting statistics

In the following 5 chapters, you will quickly find the 42 most important statistics relating to "Base Metal Industry Worldwide".


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