Zinc mines are recovering from the impacts of COVID-19, with global production expected to recover by 5.2 per cent in 2021 to reach 12.8 million tonnes (Mt).
According to GlobalData, production declined by approximately 5.9 per cent to 12.1 Mt in 2020, mainly due to COVID-19 related lockdowns and restrictions, however, looking ahead, zinc production over the forecast period (2021–2025) is expected to grow by 2.1 per cent each year to reach 13.9 Mt in 2025.
Mining Analyst at GlobalData, Vinneth Bajaj, said: “Bolivia’s zinc was particularly affected by the pandemic in 2020, but production is now expected to recover. Mines in the region such as the Colquiri, Cerro Rico and San Cristobal sites are now reopening. Similarly, the re-opening of Peru’s Chungar Mining Unit, and El Porvenir and Cerro Lindo mines is expected to increase production in the country by 9.4 per cent, to reach 1.5 Mt in 2021.”
“However, production is not recovering in all regions, as declines are expected in Canada (-5.8 per cent) and Brazil (-19.2 per cent) – mainly due to scheduled zinc mine closures and planned maintenance shutdowns.”
“The US, India, Australia and Mexico will be the key contributors to zinc production growth in 2021-2025. Combined production in these countries is expected to increase from a forecasted 3.6 Mt in 2021 to 4.2 Mt in 2025,” Bajaj said.
Bajaj highlights some key zinc mine products worldwide:
One key upcoming project is the Aripuana Zinc mine in Brazil, which is jointly owned by Votorantim and Karmin Exploration and is currently under construction. By March 2021, 79 per cent of the works were completed. During the first quarter of 2021, the company invested $40 million in the project, taking total investment to $353 million since commencing construction. The project is forecast to have an annual zinc production capacity of 72.7 kilotonnes (kt) and is expected to commence operations in the third quarter of 2022.
Another major development is the Pavlovskoye project in Russia, which is 99.5 per cent owned by State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom and is currently undergoing a definitive feasibility study. The lead-zinc-silver project reported mineral resources of an estimated 55 Mt, with an average zinc grade equivalent to 4 per cent. The $400 million project is anticipated to have an annual zinc production capacity of 223 kt and is expected to start operations in 2023.
Lastly, the Kudz Ze Kayah project in Canada, which is wholly owned by BMC Minerals Ltd (UK), is currently undergoing a definitive feasibility study (DFS) and awaiting regulatory approvals and permissions. In August 2020, the company announced that the assessment board had begun preparing its final screening report for the proposed mine development and in November 2020, the company issued an updated DFS for the project. The project is planned to have an annual zinc production capacity of 106.6 kt and is expected to commence operations in 2023.