New research from industry analysts GBI Research has suggested that the Asia Pacific region would see an increase in zinc production, further securing its position as the largest zinc producing region in the world.
A new report by GBI noted that demand from galvanised steel markers was rising within the region, as populations expanded, keeping investor interest alive in the zinc mining industry and driving the development of zinc mining projects in the region.
Substantial zinc reserves in China, Australia and Kazakhstan support Asia’s zinc mining industry, and according to the US Geological Survey (USGS), Asia-Pacific had the largest zinc reserves in the world at the end of 2010 with 122 million tonnes, with Australia and China accounting for around 78 percent of these reserves.
Most of the zinc reserves in Australia are located in Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia and Victoria, while the provinces of Hubei and Guangdong Sheng accounted for the majority of zinc reserves in China.
Asia-Pacific zinc ore production currently stood at an estimated 6.6 million tonnes in 2011, and during the forecast period 2012/2020, zinc ore production in Asia-Pacific is estimated to increase at a compound annual growth rate of around 4 percent to approximately 9.6 million tonnes in 2020.
China was the major contributor to regional production in 2011, accounting for a 58.3 percent share, and the country was expected to remain the leading source of zinc in the future.
China’s domestic zinc consumption was expected to increase from an estimated 5.2 million tonnes in 2010, to roughly 6.5 million tonnes by 2020, due to China’s plan to build 36 million units of affordable housing by 2015.
National plans such as this, aimed to support population growth in emerging economies, also worked to bolster industrial sectors by raising demand for raw materials, GBI noted.
Overall zinc metal consumption in the Asia-Pacific region stood at an estimated 6.4 million tonnes in 2011, with China accounting for almost 90 percent of this. Regional consumption during this decade was expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of around 1.6 percent to reach around 7.8 million tonnes by 2020, due to demand for galvanised steel.
However, GBI noted that the skilled labour shortage in Australia could pose a major threat to the Asia-Pacific zinc mining industry, as the second largest zinc mine company in the region has been experiencing a skilled labour shortage for a number of years.
Beginning in 2004, the situation worsened as the global financial crisis forced the resources sector to lay off around 28 300 personnel during 2008/2009. Since then, as the industry has gradually recovered, the shortage issue has become more apparent and is soon expected to become a major concern.
GBI said that with several remote mines located in Western Australia and Queensland and several mining projects under development, the skilled workforce shortage was likely to adversely affect the mineral resource sector.