Zinc from Trail could help reduce the growing epidemic of malnourishment in developing countries through a new three-year partnership agreement signed late last week.
On Friday Teck Resources Ltd. announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland the signing of a three-year agreement with BASF: The Chemical Company to jointly develop affordable zinc fortification and supplementation solutions for people who are not getting enough zinc in their diet.
The goal of the partnership is to reduce zinc deficiency among 100 million people in developing countries by 2015, said Richard Deane, Teck’s energy and public affairs manager.
“It feels good that some of the zinc we produce here in Trail is going to go into this initiative of helping these people worldwide,” he said.
Using Teck’s vast stores of zinc, the mineral will be turned into high-grade zinc oxide by GH Chemicals in Montreal, which BASF will use to make food fortification supplements for people who suffer from a zinc deficiency.
But part of the challenge is not in producing more zinc for worldwide use, but it is in getting the micronutrient into the diets of people suffering from zinc deficiency.
This requires education on the dangers of zinc deficiency, better distribution networks, and getting the zinc into fortified or supplement form that is useful for people that have zinc deficiency.
The fortification would be used to increase the nutritional value of staple foods such as flour, cooking oil, sugar or rice.
“It’s not something we generally see as a problem in the first world, but it is a problem worldwide,” Deane said.
No extra jobs would be created by the partnership, he added, since the actual amount of zinc used for the project is quite small. Zinc produced in Trail to address the zinc deficiency problem worldwide is less than two per cent of Teck’s production, and less than .1 per cent of global zinc production.
As one of the world’s largest producers of zinc, Teck president and CEO Don Lindsay said the company recognized they had the ability to make a difference.
“We are developing solutions that will enhance zinc micronutrient distribution systems, reduce instances of zinc deficiency in developing countries and ultimately improve human health,” he said in a release.
Zinc is an essential micronutrient for all living organisms that protects the body from illnesses and helps fight infections. Even so, two billion people around the world are not getting enough zinc through their diet.
Zinc deficiency is one of the leading risk factors associated with diseases such as diarrhea, contributing to the deaths of 800,000 people each year.
The agreement is part of Teck’s existing Zinc and Health program which includes partnerships with UNICEF, Free the Children, the Micronutrient Initiative and the federal government.
As well, the partnership forms part of the Scaling up Nutrition process and it aims to help the United Nations in their efforts to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals, particularly the goal to halve poverty and hunger by 2015.