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Base Metals

Base metals are nonferrous metals and are neither precious nor noble metals (relatively rare and resistant to corrosion, for example silver and platinum). The most common base metals include copper, lead and zinc.

Copper is naturally antibacterial. This means brass doorknobs are excellent for public buildings because they prevent the spread of bacteria.

The value of Western Australian base metals sold increased 16 per cent to $1.7 billion in 2017–18. This represented the highest value since 2013–14. The increase was predominantly due to rising prices since 2013-14.

Australia is the sixth largest producer of copper in the world. In Western Australia, copper accounted for 79 per cent ($1.3 billion) of base metals sales in 2017–18, up seven per cent from the previous year. This was largely the result of price improvements as the volume of sales fell four per cent.

Australia is one of the world’s major zinc producers behind China and Peru, generating about 20 per cent of global production. In Western Australia, zinc output increased a modest 13 per cent to 93,552 tonnes in 2017-18, with the higher zinc prices resulting in a 63 per cent increase in sales value to $333 million.

Australia is the second largest producer of lead in the world behind China. In Western Australia, lead production rose 110 per cent to 7,365 tonnes in 2017–18, up from a 12-year low of 3,507 tonnes in 2016–17. The increased production and higher prices resulted in a 130 per cent increase in lead sales value in 2017–18.

*Sources: DMIRS, US Geological Survey.