Zinc is an element drawn from the Earth. The primary producers include China, Australia, Peru, Europe and Canada. Eighty percent of all zinc mines are located underground. Miners remove zinc from volcanic rock, limestone, shale and sandstone. Often, they locate zinc near deposits of lead, copper, gold and silver. When removed from the mine, blende zinc is 25 percent or more sulfur. Processing removes other impurities as well.
More than 50 countries around the world produce zinc. Zinc is refined from its ores by roasting, reducing with charcoal and distillation. Sphalerite or blende, smithsonite, calamine and franklinite are all zinc-containing ores. In the ore form, zinc compounds include sulfides, silicates, carbonates and oxides. Franklinite is a zinc oxide that also contains oxides of iron and manganese. Zinc sulfide, known as zinc blende, provides more than 95 percent of the metal ore.
Zinc has uses in several industries. Metal manufacturers use zinc in creating alloys, including brass and bronze. They also use it to galvanize iron to prevent rusting. Zinc has antibacterial properties making it important in the pharmaceutical industry. Zinc oxide finds uses in paints, cosmetics, plastics, soaps and batteries. Zinc is an essential nutrient for humans as well as animals.