Over 60% of Japan’s production capacity of zinc, used in automotive steel sheet and construction materials, has been suspended since the 11 March earthquake.

Mitsui Mining and Smelting is planning to resort to imports of bare metal as its Hachinohe zinc smelter in northern Japan will be shut for a period of time due to the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami.

Mitsui Mining spokeswoman told Reuters that though the other two plants in west Japan are operating near full capacity, the firm is planning to rely on bare metals imports to make up for the production loss.

Dowa Holdings, which produces 30% of domestic production of electrolytic zinc, has been unable to restart operations at its Akita zinc smelter in northern Japan due to unstable power supply.

Toho Zinc has shut down its Annaka Zinc smelter in north of Tokyo and Onahama copper smelter due to power cuts.

Last year, Japan produced 571,000t of zinc and imported 32,000t of metal mostly from Peru and Namibia.