Zinc: A versatile metal powering the renewable energy movement

Company News

by Peter Milios

Zinc is the fourth most widely consumed base metal in the world, holding significant importance in the construction and automobiles industries.

Zinc finds its primary application in the galvanizing process, where it safeguards iron and steel from rusting. It also possesses the versatility to form alloys with other metals, enabling its use in die-casting applications for creating various shapes like door handles.

Although these characteristics might appear insignificant in terms of inconvenience management, they play a crucial role in fostering a sustainable future by considerably prolonging the lifespan of steel.

By ensuring the longevity of equipment, fewer new resources are required to constantly replace it.

In the case of zinc, this translates to reduced steel production and subsequently, a decreased need in the energy to mine and process iron ore into steel.

Beyond its industrial applications, zinc plays a vital role as an essential nutrient in the human body.

Zinc supports normal growth and development throughout different life stages, including cell growth, enzyme function, and DNA activity, and since the body cannot produce it, it must be obtained from food.

Its uses have also been associated with the renewable energy movement, which has recently been exacerbated by the fact that Canada has included it in its list of critical minerals.

This is because devices like wind turbines and solar panel structures rely heavily on zinc for corrosion protection.

In fact, the World Bank is estimating about 98% of renewable energy’s demand for zinc will be driven by its use in wind turbines.

Another potential purpose comes from using them as a zinc-ion battery as a possible replacement for the renowned lithium-ion battery.

Zinc offers a promising alternative to lithium-ion batteries due to its abundance, low cost, and environmentally friendly characteristics.

They can also be considered safer than lithium-ion batteries as they use a water-based chemistry, avoiding the fire problem that occurs with Li-ion batteries in EV battery packs.

In the long term, zinc-based batteries offer competitive advantages in addressing the lithium-ion shortage.

However, due to the early market entry of lithium technology and established consumer loyalty, as well as ongoing investment returns from lithium-ion battery facilities, zinc-based batteries may not surpass lithium-based batteries in the short term.

So, there is still a fair bit of work away from being a commercially viable replacement to the current gold standard of EV batteries.

When looking ahead, due to zinc’s applications in industrials, as well as its anticipated contribution the renewable energy movement, there is expected to be a supply deficit.

"Zinc is set to play a crucial role in the development of a low carbon economy, particularly in the renewable energy sector, where it is vital for the production of wind turbines and solar panels.

Taking into account S32's 1.5-degree climate change scenario, which predicts a significant increase in demand for these technologies, zinc demand is projected to double to approximately 25 million tonnes by 2040.

This equates to a significant supply gap of 12 million tonnes, primarily driven by major mine depletions, lack of new discoveries, and regulatory constraints on approvals," states Shane Sikora, Managing Director of Rumble Resources.

This is illustrated below.

"Zinc inventories have reached historically low levels with a looming supply deficit. It is estimated that four out of the ten major producers have less than a decade's worth of mine life remaining," states Mr. Sikora.

Regarding its mining operations, approximately 80% of global zinc ore is obtained through underground mining, while 8% comes from open-pit mines, and the remaining 12% is mined using a combination of both methods.

The extraction process involves crushing the ore, combining it with water to form zinc sulphide concentrate, which is then converted to zinc oxide through roasting or sintering before being processed into metallic zinc, with the additional production of sulphuric acid from the oxidized sulphur contained in the zinc concentrate.

When assessing the Australian landscape, several players are of worthy note.

Rumble Resources (ASX:RTR)

Rumble Resources is an Australian-based mineral exploration company, with their flagship, globally significant zinc-lead sulphide deposit, Earaheedy Project, located 110km north of Wiluna, Western Australian in the Earaheedy Basin.

Maiden Sulphide, pit constrained; Inferred Mineral Resource Estimate (MRE):
  • 94Mt @ 3.1% Zn+Pb and 4.1g/t Ag (at a 2% Zn+Pb cutoff) for 2.2Mt Zinc, 0.7Mt Lead and 12.6Moz Silver of contained metal
The project represents one of the largest zinc sulphide discoveries globally over the last decade.


DEVELOP is an exploration and development company with two advanced Copper-Zinc Projects near Port Hedland in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The Sulphur Springs project is located 144 km to the south east of Port Hedland and includes the Sulphur Springs and Kangaroo Caves.

  • 17.4Mt @ 1.3% Cu, 4.2% Zn and 17 g/t of Ag
Woodlawn Zinc-Copper Project is a high-grade zinc-copper-lead-gold-silver project located in the world-class Lachlan Fold belt in NSW, 250km south-west of Sydney and 40km south of Goulburn.

  • 7.3Mt grading 13.2% of Zn-equivalent
Terramin Australia (ASX:TZN)

Terramin Australia is engaged in development and exploration of base and precious metals and other economic mineral deposits.

The Tala Hamza Zinc Project is situated along the Mediterranean Sea, just 15km away from the regional hub of Béjaia, this city benefits from the presence of essential amenities, such as an international airport and a deep-water port, provided by the well-developed infrastructure in Béjaia.

  • The Tala Hamza deposit holds a Resource of 68.6Mt (Measured, Indicated and Inferred) at 4.6% zinc and 1.2% lead at a cut-off grade of 2.5% zinc equivalent (inclusive of Probable Reserve)
  • Over a span of 21 years, this mining operation is projected to yield an average annual production of 129,300 tonnes of zinc concentrate and 26,000 tonnes of lead concentrate. At its peak, the output is expected to reach 153,000 tonnes of zinc concentrate and 36,000 tonnes of lead concentrate, derived from mining and processing an average of 1.32 million tonnes of ore per annum.

Overall, zinc’s applications in industrials, combined with its potential for sustainable development and contribution to renewable energy, highlights its continued significance and potential for future advancements.

As a crucial nutrient and with its sustainable characteristics, zinc holds a promising future, driving innovation and supporting global efforts towards a greener and more resilient economy.

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