VANCOUVER (miningweekly.com) – The zinc supply gap has widened by 30% year-on-year for the first eight months of this year, new data published by the International Lead and Zinc Study Group (ILZSG) shows.
The Lisbon, Portugal-based organisation on Wednesday said the zinc deficit had grown from 221 000 t over the same eight-month period in 2016, to 287 000 t in 2017.
Preliminary data recently compiled by the ILZSG also showed total reported inventories declining by 274 000 t over the same period.
World zinc mine production rose by 3.9% to 8.63-million tonnes between January and August, mainly as a result of rises in Eritrea, India, Peru and Turkey that more than offset decreases in Australia and the US.
The ILZSG also found a marginal 0.1% fall in global refined zinc metal production to 8.94-million tonnes over the same period, mainly influenced by reductions in Canada, China, the Republic of Korea and Thailand, which were balanced by a significant increase in India.
Despite small declines in use in China and Europe of 1.3% and 0.9%, respectively, the ILZSG noted that global refined zinc metal use increased by 0.6% to 9.23-million tonnes. This was mainly owing to increases in Japan, Taiwan and the US.
Imports of zinc contained in zinc concentrates into China increased by 38.9% to 714 000 t. Chinese net imports of refined zinc metal decreased by 5.3% to total 302 000 t.
The London Metals Exchange (LME) three-month benchmark price for zinc crashed through the $3 000/t-level in August, and has been trading above that level ever since – a level last observed in 2007.
Meanwhile, the ILZSG said world refined lead metal demand exceeded supply by 119 000 t during the first eight months of 2017, as reported stock levels decreased by 28 000 t.
The ILZSG highlighted that a 6.8% rise in global lead mine output to 3.38-million tonnes was mainly a consequence of increases in China, India and Kazakhstan, that more than balanced a sharp decline in Australia.
Higher lead output in China and India was the main driver behind a rise in global refined lead metal output of 4.1%, to 7.66-million tonnes. The latest data from the US Geological Survey indicated that production in the US fell by 10.1%.
The increase in global demand for lead metal of 6.4%, or 7.78-million tonnes, was primarily influenced by a rise in Chinese apparent demand of 12.4%. Use in Europe was up by 3.5% and in the US by 3.1%.
Further, Chinese imports of lead contained in lead concentrates decreased by 4% to total 480 000 t. Chinese net imports of refined lead metal amounted to 63 000 t compared with net exports of 12 000 t over the first eight months of 2016.
LME lead prices had also rallied since June, trading at more than $2 550/t, a price last seen in 2011.