Refined lead supply exceeded demand by 8kt (8,000mt) in 2019, while the zinc market reported a deficit of 189kt, according to the latest data from the International Lead and Zinc Study Group (ILZSG).
The data, which gave a snapshot of market conditions for the two metals last year, indicated that global zinc output from mines rose by 0.9pc, led by increases from mines in Australia, South Africa, Canada, and China. However, zinc production declined in Argentina, Chile, India, Kazakhstan, Peru, Turkey, and the US.
In the EU, zinc mining production decreased by 2.1pc, despite Greek, Portuguese and Swedish outputs all rising.
Global lead mine output rose by 0.7pc, as a 1.7pc reduction in China last year was offset by increased production in Europe, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Peru and South Africa.
However, global refined lead output dropped by 0.4pc in 2019, despite India, Mexico, and the US increasing their production. ILZSG said that lower output at Nyrstar’s Port Pirie smelter in Australia and the closure of Glencore’s smelter in Argentina impacted refined lead production.
The fact that lead is a highly recyclable material gained traction in 2019, with the share of refined lead output from secondary or recycled raw material growing to 63.5pc of global output from 62.5pc in 2018.
Refined zinc production grew by 2.8pc in 2019, led by a significant increases in China, Mexico, and Peru. However, the growth was offset by output reduction from Russia after Electrozink’s 100kt Vladikavkaz plant closed permanently in October 2018. Other countries that produce refined zinc, including Australia, Canada, India, and Kazakhstan, reported decreases.
A slow automotive sector resulted in global lead usage falling by 1.1pc. Japan led the decline with a 6.7pc drop, followed by China (1.8pc), the US (1.4pc), and Europe where usage fell by 0.5pc. Conversely, global zinc usage rose by 0.2pc in 2019, according to ILZSG.
Higher zinc usage in China and the US made up for declines in Japan, South Korea, and Europe. In fact, China’s zinc concentrate imports increased by 11.5pc in 2019 to 1,503kt from the prior year, even though global net imports for the metal fell by 21.6pc to 544kt.
China also emerged as one of the largest importers of lead, increasing its shipments by 36pc to 938kt, despite overall global imports for the metal falling by 4.2pc to 118kt in 2019, compared with 123kt in 2018.