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Antaike Analysis: Changing Zinc Import Structure on the Expanding Domestic Capacity

2021-02-08 15:58:52

Beijing, Feb. 8 (Antaike)--The latest statistics from Customs showed China imported 324kt of zinc concentrate in December 2020, up 49.9% month on month, and total import was 3.822Mt in 2020, rising 20.4% compared with 2019, the highest in recent 10 years, and growth rate even exceeded 40% in H1 2020.


Meanwhile, China imported 66kt of refined zinc in December, down 7.0% month on month and total import reached 583kt in 2020, down 7.2% compared with 2019, the lowest since 2017, and declining rate even achieved over 30% in H1 2020.


Zinc concentrate import soared but refined zinc import plunged as the expanding refining capacity increased the demand for concentrate, but the higher refined zinc output resulted in falling demand for imported zinc ingot. China’s zinc mines are unlikely to lift output due to resource restriction, but refining capacity will keep expanding, therefore import of zinc concentrate will continue to grow in the next few years, which means China’s dependence on overseas resources will rise further.


What’s more, import of zinc scrap reached as high as 218kt in 2020, the historical high. Scrap contains over 90% of zinc, which is applied into low end die-casting industry. From the trade of all-zinc-element to see, import of zinc concentrate, refined zinc and zinc scrap totaled 2.70Mt in 2020, almost close to the peak in 2009.


On zinc concentrate import, China imported more zinc concentrate in the first half of 2020 and more refined zinc in the second half of 2020. Overseas mines weren’t affected by covid-19 at the beginning of 2020, and the falling domestic output resulted in rising import. In H2, with the absorbing of zinc concentrate inventory at global market, demand for zinc concentrate was tight everywhere, but loss of China’s imported concentrate enlarged, so raw materials flowing into Chinese market cooled down.


On refined zinc import, domestic consumption was hit by the epidemic in H1 2020, thus demand for imported zinc ingot shrank and import loss was high, so importing window has closed. In H2, import loss narrowed down and import quantity rebounded.


According to Antaike’s estimation, China’s refined zinc output will keep rising in 2021, therefore demand for concentrate will grow accordingly, but domestic mines have little potential to lift output, while output of overseas mines rebounded, which means the gap can only be filled by increasing import. China’s rising scope for refined zinc consumption is limited, and the surplus supply will inevitably squeeze out some import demand, therefore import structure in 2021 will be similar with 2020: import of zinc concentrate keeps rising and refined zinc import falls further in 2021.

                          China’s zinc concentrate import

                         China’s refined zinc import




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