Chinese Economy Drives Metal Production

In 2008, more than 1.4 billion tons of metals were produced globally--double the quantity of the late 1970s and more than seven times as much as in 1950. Trends since the late 1990s have been driven by the dramatic growth of the Chinese economy. The figure for metals production includes aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, gold, lead, mercury, nickel, and steel.

According to the latest Vital Signs snapshot of metals production worldwide:

  • China's steel production skyrocketed from 66 million tons in 1990 to 500 million tons in 2008, accounting for 38 percent of the world's total. The next largest producers in 2008, following at a considerable distance, were Japan at 119 million tons and the United States at 91 million tons.
  • The energy intensity and carbon emissions of steel production vary greatly by country. Mills in Italy, Germany, South Korea, and Japan are among the most energy efficient worldwide. China contends with old and inefficient facilities but is making major strides in modernizing its industry.
  • A growing amount of steel is now produced from recycled scrap material, the result of changing economics and environmental considerations. Recycling saves 40-75 percent of the energy needed to produce virgin steel.

This new metal production update includes the latest figures on global production of steel and aluminum.

Read the Vital Signs analysis, "World Metal Production Surges," by Michael Renner.