The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

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

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.

The Worldwatch Institute was a globally focused environmental research organization based in Washington, D.C., founded by Lester R. Brown. Worldwatch was named as one of the top ten sustainable development research organizations by Globescan Survey of Sustainability Experts. Brown left to found the Earth Policy Institute in 2000. The Institute was wound up in 2017, after publication of its last State of the World Report. was unreachable from mid-2019.