Zinc Production to Increase in MexicoBy Karin Dilge | Thu, 06/23/2022 - 12:55
Mining companies in Mexico are seeking to increase zinc production, which could boost the position of the country as a global leader of the industrial metal.
“Zinc has an opportunity, too. There have been many shutdowns and scale-backs for smelters, so prices have gone up. Furthermore, the demand for zinc has increased with the decline of the COVID-19 pandemic, as companies and countries get back to business,” said Ralph Shearing, CEO, Altaley Mining in an interview with MBN. The company extracts zinc as its main commodity at Campo Morado and it expects to start producing copper in 2Q22.
Another four key projects are also advancing to improve Mexico’s zinc output by over 200,000t/y within six years. By comparison, companies produced 720,000t in 2021, significantly more than the 638,000t produced in 2020. Mexico is therefore set to maintain its position as the sixth-largest zinc producer worldwide.
“We see great opportunities, especially because there are major infrastructure improvement programs planned in developed countries, particularly the US. High demand will keep zinc prices up, especially since it is widely used for galvanization. This trend could yield us another year or two of great zinc prices,” added Shearing.
According to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), production of the metal was up 7.8 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year. In addition, zinc is being traded between US$1.5 and US$2/lb, a rise from US$1/lb two years ago.
Southern Copper, Teck Resources, Endeavour Silver and Discovery Silver are developing Mexico’s leading zinc projects. The zinc output of Southern Copper is 100,000t/y, for example. Its biggest construction-stage zinc project is expected to start operations in 2H23. The project is will double the company’s zinc output and produce an additional 20,000t/y of copper.
Teck Resources has a zinc output of 91,000t/y and is looking for a partner to take the San Nicolas project toward production. Nevertheless, it might be starting the project alone with a prefeasibility study of producing 65,000t/y of copper, 91,000t/y of zinc, 17,500oz/y of gold and 2.1Moz/y of silver during a 15-year period.
Endeavour Silver has a zinc output of 22,900t/y and aims to buy the Pitarralla project from SSR Mining. Pitarrilla has significant zinc resources, with 1,4Mt in its already explored open pit area. A technical report conducted in 2012 regarding Pitarrilla put CAPEX US$741 million, with production at 10.1Moz/y silver, 22,900t/y zinc and 8,000t/y lead over a 30-year mine life.
Discovery Silver has an unknown zinc output and has selected another Canadian company to lead project in its Cordero site. There is still no breakdown of zinc or lead production and a study will be an essential next step for Cordero.
Zinc is the fourth most used metal in the planet. The cosmetics, paper and batteries in lamps, among other products, all require zinc. There is a great quantity of zinc still to be produced in a mineral form. The most common zinc ore is sphalerite, but carbonates and silicates also exist. Zinc is mainly extracted from underground mines, though open pit mines also produce the resource.
The main use of zinc is to protect steel from rusting which prolongs its useful life for products for construction, transport, consumer goods and in the manufacturing of industrial machinery.