Lead

number seven

China produces the most of the base metal, but US Geological Survey data shows six other countries also mined notable amounts in 2021.

The lead price performed well for much of 2021, hitting a three year high. And with tight supply in the forecast amid rising demand, experts have made positive predictions for lead in 2022.

According to the latest lead report from the US Geological Survey, the base metal’s average London Metal Exchange price for the first 10 months of 2021 was US$0.989 per pound, up 20 percent year-on-year.

Lead reached a high of $1.102 per pound in August 2021 due to increased demand for refined lead and tightness in supply brought on by COVID-19 supply chain issues. As of late March 2022, lead was below US$1.016.


Regardless of movement in the lead price, it’s worth looking at the world’s top producers of lead. Last year, China produced the most of the metal, although a number of other countries also put out significant amounts. Without further ado, here’s a look at the seven top lead-producing countries of 2021, as per US Geological Survey data.

1. China

Mine production: 2 million MT

China produced 2 million metric tonnes (MT) of lead last year, up slightly from its 2020 output of 1.9 million MT. Interestingly, the increase came despite a surplus of lead in warehouses.

The country is home to a number of large lead mines, including the Yinshan mine owned by Jiangxi Copper (SHA:600362), the Fankou mine owned by Shenzhen Zhongjin Lingnan Nonfemet (SZSE:000060) and the Ying mine, owned by Silvercorp Metals (TSX:SVM,NYSEAMERICAN:SVM).

2. Australia

Mine production: 500,000 MT

Next on the list is Australia, whose 2021 lead production of 500,000 MT pales in comparison to China’s output. Still, it was an increase from Australia's 2020 output, which came in at 494,000 MT.

A world-leading exporter of lead, much of the lead ore, lead concentrate and refined lead produced in Australia is shipped to the UK, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, India and Malaysia. The country’s largest lead-producing mines include Shenzhen Zhongjin’s Broken Hill, Glencore’s (LSE:GLEN,OTC Pink:GLCNF) Mount Isa in Queensland and McArthur River in the Northern Territory.

3. United States

Mine production: 300,000 MT

Lead production dropped in the US in 2021, totaling 300,000 MT — down from 306,000 MT in 2020. According to the US Geological Survey, secondary lead production fell by about 4 percent, “owing to a reduction in production of several secondary lead smelters and a closure of one secondary lead smelter in South Carolina in 2021.”

The country has five lead mines in Missouri, and lead is produced as a by-product at two zinc mines in Alaska and two silver mines in Idaho. These include the Renco Group’s (HKEX:2323) Sweetwater mine in Missouri and Teck Resources’ (NYSE:TECK,TSX:TECK.B,TSX:TECK.A) Red Dog mine in Alaska.

4. Peru

Mine production: 280,000 MT

Peru saw an increase in lead production in 2021. Last year, the country put out 280,000 MT of lead, while its 2020 production totaled 242,000 MT.

The largest lead mines in Peru include Buenaventura Mining Company's (NYSE:BVN) Colquijirca mine, Glencore’s Chungar Mining Unit in Pasco and Sierra Metals’ (TSX:SMT,NYSEAMERICAN:SMTS) Yauricocha mine.

5. Mexico

Mine production: 270,000 MT

In Mexico, lead production came in at 270,000 MT last year, up slightly from the nation's 2020 production of 260,000 MT. Excellon Resources (TSX:EXN,NYSEAMERICAN:EXN) operates the La Platosa mine in Mexico, which exploits high-grade silver, lead and zinc manto deposits.

6. Russia

Mine production: 210,000 MT

Unlike the countries mentioned above, Russia’s lead production remained unchanged from 2020 to 2021 at 210,000 MT. The country’s largest lead mines include the government-owned Uchalinsk mine, as well as Ural Mining and Metallurgical’s Volkovskoye mine. It remains to be seen what impact the war between Russia and Ukraine will have on the nation’s lead-mining industry.

7. India

Mine production: 210,000 MT

The seventh largest producer of lead is India, whose production increased only slightly in 2021 to hit 210,000 MT, up from 204,000 MT in 2020. The country’s largest lead mines include the Sindesar Khurd, Rampura Agucha and Zawar mines, all owned by Vedanta Resources.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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