The use of zinc compound, most notably the zinc oxide in calamine, date back to the time of Marco Polo (in the 1400s). The zinc compounds were made into healing lotions and alloyed with copper to produce brass.

Deposits of zinc-bearing ores are found in most provinces of Canada, as well as in the Yukon and North West Territories. Zinc occurs as the sulfide (ZnS) in the mineral known as zinc blende or sphalerite. These minerals are usually mixed with ores containing lead or copper. Pine Point mine in the Northwest Territories produces a lead/zinc ore. Sherritt Gordon mines at Lynn Lake, Manitoba produce copper/zinc ore. Texasgulf mine at Timmins, Ontario, produces ore containing zinc, copper, lead, silver, and cadmium.

Zinc is relatively resistant to corrosion from reactions with oxygen and moisture in the atmosphere. It is easily die cast, or molded. Much of the metal is used in the manufacture of automotive engine parts and electrical equipment.

Zinc is particularly effective as a protective coating for steel (galvanized coatings). Other applications are in alloys with copper (brass) and with aluminum (die castings). Zinc oxide and zinc sulfide are used in paint pigment. Zinc chloride is used in dry cell batteries, textile printing and as a fireproofing agent for timber and growing trees.

BCIT Chemistry Resource Center