Photograph of galvanized bucket

Zinc is a soft, somewhat reactive, fairly abundant metal ($126 a ton in 1940) that has been known since medieval times.  It is often found in the same ore bodies as lead.  Zinc is used to galvanize less reactive metals, such as iron, giving them increased resistance to corrosion.  It is also an important alloying element with copper.  Brass is any zinc-rich copper alloy that does not contain large amounts of tin.

Zinc was not a limiting resource for the Allies.  The United States produced large quantities of zinc from mines in Missouri, although production had to increase 40% to cover wartime demand.  Australia also has large deposits.  Japan produced about 40% of its zinc requirements domestically, at the Gifu and Miyako mines.  Japan’s conquest of Burma opened another source, limited by the amount of shipping available to bring the ore back home.

Zinc mines in the Pacific


Bingham Canyon

Broken Hill

Coer D'Alene




Mount Isa



Other North American sources produced about 842,000 tons per year


Klein (2013)
U.S. Geological Survey (accessed 29 December 2006)

Van Royden and Bowles (1952)

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