Global lead production is expected to decline by 5.2% to 4.5 million tonnes (Mt) in 2020. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in late December 2019 significantly impacted the mining industry in the first half of 2020, and continues to do so.
Overall global lead mine production declined by 3.4% in Q1 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. This was primarily due to the decline in production in China, India and Kazakhstan due to COVID-19 restrictions.
In China, production is forecast to decline by 3.5%, to reach 1,985 thousand tonnes (kt) in 2020. The country’s lead mine production declined in the first quarter of 2020, primarily due to restrictive measures taken by the government to contain the virus.
Several mines and plants had to temporarily cease production activities due to the shortage of workers who could not return to mine sites, owing to the prolonged Lunar New Year holidays, followed by transportation issues due to the lockdown. Although most of the lead producers gradually restarted mine operations, lower demand from the automotive sector is expected to constrain mine production in 2020.
In Australia, production is forecasted to fall by 4.2%, even though mining in the country has not been as severely impacted as in other countries. Elsewhere, production from the rest of world, is anticipated to decline from 2.2Mt in 2019 to 2Mt in 2020 – a drop of 7.1%. Significant declines will be in Peru (8.4%), the US (6.1%) and India (14.1%).
Looking ahead, lead production over the forecast period (2021–2024) is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.2%, to reach 5.2Mt in 2024. Peru, Australia and China will be the key contributors to this growth. Combined production in these countries is expected to recover from a forecasted 2.8Mt in 2021 to 3.3Mt in 2024.
Key projects expected to commence operations, during the forecast period include the Abra in Western Australia, which is currently undergoing construction. The project’s debt financing has been slowed due to the outbreak of COVID-19. However, the company is targeting it’s initial production in 2021, with an annual lead capacity of 95kt. The Prairie Creek project, which is currently awaiting regulatory approvals and permissions. With a total US$279mn pre-production capital cost, the project is expected to commence operations in 2022. Once commenced, the project is expected to produce 47.6kt of lead annually.