Base Metals

What are base metals?

Zinc ingots produced by Nyrstar. Copyright Nyrstar

The term 'base metals' commonly refers to the industrial, non-ferrous metals:


With low standard electrode potentials (E0), pure base metals oxidize relatively easily. All, except copper, also react with hydrochloric acid to form hydrogen.

Base metals are less expensive than their counterpart precious metals due to the fact that they are more widely occurring and readily extracted.

Contracts for copper, lead, nickel and zinc are traded on the London Metal Exchange.


Base metals are used in a wide variety of applications from electrical wiring (copper) to batteries (lead), as well as to strengthen and harden metal alloys (nickel) and to coat and protect more reactive metals, such as iron (nickel and zinc).