March 25, 1999
News Release 99-036
U.S. PRODUCERS OF CERTAIN NONFERROUS METALS
ADAPT TO REMAIN COMPETITIVE
U.S. producers of nickel, lead, zinc, and magnesium have managed their presence in a
competitive world market with innovative production measures and new end products, reports
the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in its publication Industry and Trade
Summary: Certain Nonferrous Metals.
The report examines how changing production factors and diverse market requirements have
influenced shifts from U.S. primary production of these minerals to alternative sourcing
measures and encouraged these U.S. industries to advance into new high-tech end products.
The ITC, an independent nonpartisan, factfinding federal agency, recently released the report
as part of an ongoing series of reports on thousands of products imported into and exported
from the United States. Following are highlights from the report.
The foregoing information is extracted from the ITC report Industry and Trade Summary:
Certain Nonferrous Metals (USITC Publication 3161, March 1999).
- Nickel is a critical ingredient in stainless and specialty steel used in the production of jet
engines and other high-tech applications where strength, corrosion resistance, and high-
temperature performance are important. Although the United States accounted for
14 percent of global nickel consumption in 1997, it has virtually no primary nickel
production. Instead, the United States relies on imports from major producers of
refined nickel including Canada, Japan, and Norway. However, domestic nickel
alloyers are very competitive and provide technically advanced materials for
- Lead is a principal ingredient in batteries and soldering operations for the transportation,
electronics, nuclear, and medical industries. The United States accounts for about
28 percent of global consumption of lead, about half of which it imports from Canada.
The United States has lost more than half of its primary lead production capability.
However, U.S. secondary production of lead increased 24 percent between 1993 and
1997 (the period covered by the report), and new battery recycling plants have been
built. The United States is the world's largest producer of secondary lead.
- Zinc is primarily used for steel galvanizing applications in the automotive and
construction industries. Although the U.S. industry currently has ample mining
capacity, environmental concerns reduced the number of smelters by about half during
the report period. Reflecting domestic dependence on foreign smelting operations, about
88 percent of 1997 U.S. exports were zinc ores and concentrates while 95 percent of
imports were refined metal. Canada is the primary U.S. trading partner for zinc.
- Magnesium is used in the production of lighter-weight die-cast auto parts, which
contributes to increased fuel efficiency. U.S. production capacity declined almost
20 percent between 1993 and 1997, partly in response to new foreign suppliers. In
order to secure supply for future production of die-cast parts, U.S. automakers have
recently formed joint ventures or entered long-term contracts with new foreign
ITC Industry and Trade Summary reports include information on product uses, U.S. and
foreign producers, and customs treatment of the product being studied; they analyze the basic
factors affecting trends in consumption, production, and trade of the commodities, as well as
factors bearing on the competitiveness of the U.S. industry in domestic and foreign markets.
The report will be available on the ITC's Internet server at www.usitc.gov. A printed copy may
be requested by calling 202-205-1809 or by writing the Office of the Secretary, U.S.
International Trade Commission, 500 E Street, SW, Washington, DC 20436. Requests may
also be faxed to 202-205-2104.
-- 30 --