Zinc didn’t do well in 2015, but like many metals it enjoyed a rebound in 2016, gaining more than 60 percent and becoming the best-performing LME metal.
At the beginning of 2017, many analysts thought zinc would continue to rise, and nine months into the year they’ve been proven right. Zinc hit a 10-year high in August, buoying both zinc juniors and producers, and despite a recent pullback, the broad consensus is that zinc prices will continue to increase in the next couple of years.
Given that situation, it’s interesting to look at how zinc supply is doing. Here’s a brief overview of top zinc production in the world by country for 2016, as per the most recent data from the US Geological Survey.
Mine production: 4.5 million MT
In 2016, China achieved top zinc production in the world by a long shot, putting out 4.5 million MT of the metal; that’s slightly up from the 4.3 million MT it produced in 2015.
Interestingly, the Asian nation is not only the world’s largest zinc producer, but also a significant consumer of the metal. In fact, China is a big part of why zinc fared so well last year — growing demand for the metal was supported by strong property sales in the country and by the Chinese government’s push for more infrastructure projects.
Mine production: 1.3 million MT
Zinc production in Peru decreased by 120,000 MT in 2016. The country produced 1.3 million MT compared to 2015’s 1.42 million MT, but made it to second place due to declining output in Australia.
Modern zinc refining began in Peru in the 1920s, and from the 1970s to the 1990s, the country saw a big increase in private international investors hoping to up the country’s zinc production. Currently, a big name in Peruvian zinc production is Trevali Mining (TSX:TV), which is producing zinc and lead–silver concentrates at its Santander mine in the country.
Mine production: 850,000 MT
Australia produced 850,000 MT of zinc in 2016, almost half of the 1.6 million MT it produced in 2015.
The significant drop happened because in October 2015 mining concluded at MMG’s (HKEX:1208) Queensland-based Century mine — while MMG had originally hoped that output from its Dugald River project would fill the gap left by Century, its production has not measured up.
4. United States
Mine production: 780,000 MT
The US produced 780,000 MT of zinc in 2016, a slight decrease from 2015’s 825,000 MT.
According to the US Geological Survey, zinc was mined in five states at 12 mines operated by four companies in 2016. The decrease in production was mainly to the closure of Nyrstar’s (BRE:NYR) Middle Tennessee mines in December 2015. The mines were able to produce 50,000 tonnes of zinc in concentrate per year.
Mine production: 710,000 MT
Mexico’s zinc output increased by 30,000 MT from 2015 to 2016. According to MBendi Information Services, while Grupo Mexico (OTCMKTS:GMBXF) is the country’s biggest mining company, Industrias Penoles (BMV:PE&OLES) is its largest natural resource company and Mexico’s biggest producer of zinc.
Despite the relative strength of zinc, Nyrstar is also selling its mothballed zinc mine in Mexico — the mine was shut down in the first quarter of 2015 due to regional security issues.
Mine production: 650,000 MT
India’s zinc production fell fairly substantially year-over-year; it put out 650,000 MT of the metal in 2016 compared to 821,000 MT the year prior. The country is home to one of the world’s top zinc mines — the Rampura Agucha mine in Rajasthan, which has an ore production capacity of 6.15 million MT per year.
The owner of Rampura Agucha, Hindustan Zinc, intends on converting all of its mines to underground operations by early next year.
Mine production: 460,000 MT
Bolivia produced 460,000 MT of zinc in 2016. That’s slightly higher from the year before, when production reached 440,000 MT. Sumitomo’s (TSE:8053) San Cristobal mine is a key producer of zinc in the country. The company states that the mine is the world’s sixth-largest zinc-producing mine, as well as the third-largest producer of silver in the world.
Comibol, the country’s state-owned mining company, recently reached an agreement with zinc miners to increase wages after protests were held across the country by mine workers in 2016.
Mine production: 340,000 MT
Kazakhstan’s 2016 zinc production remained relatively flat compared to 2015. The country produced 340,000 MT of zinc after putting out 339,000 MT in 2015.
Despite being one of the top zinc producers in the world, the country’s zinc output has decreased about 75 percent since reaching its peak in the 1980s, as per MBendi Information Services. Kazzinc is a major zinc producer in the country, and also produces considerable amounts of copper, precious metals and lead. It bills itself as one of the five lowest-cost zinc producers in the world.
Mine production: 310,000 MT
Canada’s zinc output has been on the decline for the last few years, but its output increased from 277,000 MT in 2015 to 310,000 MT in 2016. The country has been producing less zinc in part due to the closure of the Brunswick mine in May 2013. It was one of the world’s largest and most profitable zinc mines, according to CBC News, but its resources are now depleted.
Trevali Mining has broken into the Canadian zinc space as well — it declared commercial production at its Caribou mine in New Brunswick in Q3 2016. The mine has been undergoing a site-wide optimization program that includes a C$20-million investment in a new fleet of mining equipment.
Mine production: 250,000 MT
Rounding out the top 10 for zinc production in the world by country is Sweden, which produced 250,000 MT of zinc in 2016, a slight increase from 247,000 MT the year before. Boliden’s (STO:BOL) Garpenberg zinc-silver mine and Lundin Mining’s (TSX:LUN) Zinkgruvan zinc-copper mine are located in the Scandinavian country.
This is an updated version of an article originally published on Zinc Investing News in 2015.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Sivansh Padhy, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
Editorial Disclosure: Trevali Mining is a client of the Investing News Network. This article is not paid-for content.