Gold has been used for jewelry, decorative and monetary purposes for thousands of years. And it has long been considered a store value.
Today, gold is also increasingly important in the development of new technologies.
Electronics. Gold is used in components for mobile phones, computer systems and a variety of high-performance electronic systems. Only silver and copper are better conductors of electricity.
Medicine. Gold is highly resistant to bacteria and can be used for medical implants where there is a high risk of infection, such as in the inner ear.
Diagnostics. Researchers have used gold nanoparticles in laboratory tests to detect disease, which could lead to tests more than three-million times more sensitive than currently available.
Source: World Gold Council
Zinc: Critical for life on earth
Zinc is integral to our daily lives. From transportation and medicine, to energy conservation, pollution control, electronics and space exploration, about 12 million tons of zinc is produced annually to meet this demand. About 75% of the zinc consumed worldwide originates from mined ores and 25% from recycled or secondary zinc.
Galvanizing. More than half is used for galvanizing to protect steel from corrosion.
Die-casting. Approximately 14% goes into the production of zinc-based alloys, mainly to supply the die-casting industry, and 10% to produce brass and bronze.
Housing. Zinc is used for applications such as roofing, gutters and down-pipes.
Source: International Zinc Association
Lead: A store of energy
Lead is mined on all continents except Antarctica and is one of the most important metals to industrialized economies. Global demand for lead has more than doubled since the early 1990s. Today, lead has the highest recycling and reuse rates compared to other major metals.
Batteries. 80% of lead usage is in the production of batteries, of which more than 95% are recycled in developed countries. Lead batteries are allowing significant vehicle CO2 savings through "start-stop" technology and hybrid electric vehicles.
Protection. Lead provides protection from radiation for people working in hospitals, dental surgeries, laboratories and nuclear installations. It is also vital for protecting underwater transmission cables.