Zinc mining is a global business, and the three largest zinc mines in the world are located in various countries. Here’s what you need to know about them.
Last year was exciting for zinc — after being the best-performing LME metal in 2016, it enjoyed another year of surging highs in 2017.
However, prices haven’t been so favorable this year. As of mid-August, zinc was sitting at around $2,400 per tonne. Even so, some market participants remain optimistic about zinc mining this year.
Zinc’s positive performance in recent years was largely the result of supply concerns caused by the closure of the Century and Lisheen mines. Supply worries have since abated somewhat — in a March interview, Ryan Cochrane of CRU Group said there is “a lot of supply coming.”
He cited new mines coming online, including Gamsberg, owned by Vedanta Resources (LSE:VED), and the Century mine, now owned and restarted by New Century Resources (ASX:NCZ). Cochrane also pointed to returning idled capacity, including Glencore’s (LSE:GLEN) Lady Loretta mine.
Given those factors, it’s interesting to look at where zinc mining takes place around the globe. Click to learn about the top zinc-mining countries, or read on for a brief overview of the world’s three largest zinc mines. From India to the US to Australia, key zinc-mining locations can be found around the world.
1. Rampura Agucha mine, India
2017 fiscal year production: 619,981 tonnes of zinc in concentrate
The Rampura Agucha mine in Rajasthan, India is the world’s largest zinc-mining operation. The open-cast/underground mine produced 5.7 million tonnes of ore during the 2017 fiscal year, including 619,981 tonnes of zinc in concentrate and 92,228 tonnes of lead in concentrate.
The mine’s proven and probable reserves currently sit at 46 million tonnes. Rampura Agucha was first commissioned in 1991, and is operated by Hindustan Zinc (BSE:500188), a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources. It is currently undergoing an expansion that will allow it to transition away from open-cast mining. Currently only about 52 percent of production comes from underground zinc mining.
In August, the company released its results for the quarter ended on June 30, citing 212,000 tonnes of zinc produced at Rampura Agucha. That represents a 7-percent increase from the previous quarter.
2. Red Dog mine, US
2017 production: 542,000 tonnes of zinc in concentrate
Red Dog is a zinc-lead mine near Kotzebue, Alaska that was developed under a unique agreement between a US subsidiary of Canada’s Teck Resources (TSX:TECK.B,NYSE:TECK) and NANA, which is owned by the Iñupiat people of Northwest Alaska. The mine has a payroll of about $52 million, and provides 550 high-paying jobs in an area of the state where full-time work is difficult to secure.
In operation since 1989, Red Dog is now one of the world’s largest producers of zinc in concentrate, accounting for 5 percent of global zinc mine production and 79 percent of US zinc production. It is an open-pit, truck-and-loader operation. The original ore zone, called the Main deposit, was exhausted several years ago, and mining is now taking place at the Aqqaluk deposit.
Aqqaluk was discovered in the 1990s along with the Qanaiyaq deposit. Teck expects it to provide enough ore for zinc-mining operations to continue until 2031.
Teck reported annual zinc in concentrate production of 542,000 tonnes for Red Dog in 2017. Across all its operations, the company estimates that in 2018 it will produce total zinc in concentrate of 663,000 tonnes, with refined zinc production hitting 307,000 tonnes.
3. Mount Isa operations, Australia
2017 production: 226,000 tonnes of zinc in concentrate
Mount Isa Mines, a Glencore company, operates two separate mining and processing streams, copper and zinc. Its assets are located near Mount Isa in the Australian state of Queensland, and its zinc operations include the George Fisher underground mine and the Lady Loretta mine, where production has begun again after being suspended. The company also operates a zinc-lead concentrator and filter plant, plus a lead smelter and supporting services.
According to the company, the site hosts Glencore’s largest source of zinc in concentrate, and provides work for more than 3,200 employees and contractors.
Glencore’s 2017 annual report shows a production drop off of 22 percent from the previous year. The reduced output of 226,000 tonnes of zinc in concentrate was a conscious choice made by Glencore, which in 2015 started to battle falling commodities prices.
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This is an updated version of an article originally published by the Investing News Network in 2013.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Amanda Kay, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.