Zinc prices soared over the last few days after top consumer China increased imports of the metal in wake of the country’s halting production as part of an environmental crackdown on the local steel industry. The Asian nation’s move to curb zinc and nickel production is likely to have a significant impact on global supply, with inventories already under pressure from growing demand and currently at about 342,675 tons (roughly 20 percent lower than last year), according to Reuters (http://nnw.fm/DfJX0). Zinc exploration corporations such as Vancouver-based Kootenay Zinc Corp. (CSE: ZNK) (OTCQB: KTNNF) are already exploring ways to step up efforts to find deposits so as to help meet the global demand for zinc.
Refined zinc imports to China jumped 21 percent year-over-year last month, reaching 47,469 tons (http://nnw.fm/50jCY). Similarly, shipments of zinc ore and concentrates increased by 44 percent, Reuters said. This led to a significant increase in zinc prices, with the London Metal Exchange benchmark zinc closing up one percent at $2,658 per ton earlier this week – the highest since the beginning of the month.
Nickel prices also soared to $9,395, the highest in three weeks, as a result of growing Chinese imports. The halt in Chinese nickel production is unlikely to have a major impact, since the country accounts for only four percent of global supply. The situation, however, is significantly different when it comes to zinc, as the Asian nation accounted for at least 38 percent of global production before the crackdown. Both nickel and zinc are used in the steel manufacturing process – zinc for galvanized steel and nickel for stainless steel.
It is yet unclear how much of the country’s zinc and nickel production will be affected by the crackdown, but industry sources say the government is shutting down all steel mills that emit excessive pollution, along with zinc and nickel mining operations. Several of these operations might be reopened if they are found in compliance with environmental regulations, the sources added.
China’s move is likely to drive zinc demand even higher. According to the International Lead and Zinc Study Group, demand for the metal is already exceeding supply, and the difference is expected to reach 226,000 tons this year (http://nnw.fm/4Jn0I).
To help meet the rising demand, Canada’s Kootenay Zinc Corp. has already taken steps to expand its exploration program at its Sully property in British Columbia. The property is located near the legendary Sullivan Mine, which was one of the world’s largest reserves of zinc, with an output of over 17 million tons of zinc and lead until it was closed down in 2001. Kootenay’s Sully Project is located 18 miles from Sullivan, and both properties share different environments of the same basin.
For more information, visit the company’s website at www.KootenayZinc.com
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