This Company Just Became The World’s Largest Lead And Zinc Buyer

In the minerals sector — all the way from exploration projects up to mining operations — it’s critical to know who the potential buyers are for your product. 

And in the lead and zinc space, there’s a new number one consumer on the block. 

That’s Korea. Where smelter Korea Zinc will this week inaugurate a massive new build-out of processing capacity for these metals. 

Local press reported that Korea Zinc will hold a ceremony Friday to celebrate commissioning of an expansion at its lead smelter in Onsan, North Gyeongsang Province. Where the addition of new throughput will make this facility the largest user of lead concentrate in the world. 

According to estimates from analysts Wood Mackenzie, Korea Zinc had, up until now, held second place in world lead-smelting capacity. With the company’s facilities representing 5.2% of global lead production capability — just behind China’s Yuguang Smelting, which owned 5.8% of lead smelting capacity. 

But the new expansion will now increase throughput at the Onsan facility by over 40% — to 430,000 tonnes per year, from a former 300,000 tonnes per year. Which analysts project will put Korea Zinc ahead of Yuguang Smelting for top spot in the world of lead. 

Add that to the fact Korea Zinc already holds top spot globally for zinc smelting — at 4.1% of world capacity — and it’s clear this is now the center of the universe when it comes to the lead-zinc market.

Which is a critical observation for project developers in this space.

That’s because big end users like Korea Zinc represent a potential source of project funding, offtake agreements, and eventual concentrate sales. An especially crucial fact to recognize in the lead business — where there are fewer smelters globally than in other base metals like copper or zinc. 

Watch for supply deals being struck by Korea Zinc with mines globally to feed its expanded facility at Onsan. 

Here’s to looking out for number one,

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Dave Forest

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