Global production from zinc mines fell 5.9% year-on-year in 2020, the Australian government reported.
In particular, production fell 3.7% in China compared to a 6.9% decrease in other parts of the world, highlighting China’s strong role in zinc mine production.
Zinc is found in the earth’s crust primarily as zinc sulfide. The main uses of zinc include the galvanization of all forms of steel, as a component of brass, for electrical conductors, vulcanization of rubber, and in primers and paints.
In the case of Australia, production decreased 1.8% in 2020 compared to 2019.
The decline in Australian production was the result of a series of smaller deposits that were placed in “care and maintenance”, and other older deposits that produced less.
The decline came despite production gains at major zinc mines such as Mt Isa and McArthur River.
Production levels in China and South America, including Peru and Bolivia, have normalized to pre-Covid-19 levels.
To measure: the decline in global mining production contrasted markedly with metal production, which increased 1.2% in 2020 compared to 2019.
The rise was dominated by China, which rose 2.9%, compared with a 0.3% drop in the rest of the world.
According to the Australian government, increased metal production caused tensions in the concentrate markets and a decrease in treatment and refining charges at smelters as refineries competed for the concentrate.
Also the shortage of zinc concentrate caused an appreciation in the price of zinc.
Overall, global mining production was estimated at 12 million tonnes in 2020, and is projected to increase by 4% annually to 15 million tonnes in 2026.
High-quality production is scheduled to come online from the Dairi project in Indonesia in 2021-22, with 51% of the project purchased by the China Non-Ferrous Metals Industry Foreign Engineering and Construction Company.
The resource grade of 11.5% zinc makes this project one of the highest grade undeveloped resources in the world.
The high-quality production in a similar timeframe is also due to the redevelopment of the Kipushi project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
There, resource grades average a little less than 11%, but higher grade sections average more than 35% zinc.
The mine is being developed by Ivanhoe Mines Limited.