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Source: Stephen Codrington
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25 February 2021
LEAD: A LOW-PROFILE METAL
Construction is expected to commence in mid-2021 at the Abra lead project in Western Australia. Annual production at Abra is expected to reach 95,000 tonnes (contained lead), representing one-fifth of current Australian production. Toho Zinc of Japan is a minority partner in the project with Australian company, Galena Mining.
Lead has been known for over 8,000 years. The ancient Romans used it for water pipes and, as from the 1200s, it has been part of stained-glass products. Today, 80% of lead is used in batteries, notably for automobiles. The US-made Hudson was the first automobile to incorporate a lead battery, around 1920.
World mine production of lead is dominated by China (over 40%), with Australia the next largest producer (over 10%). Lead mines in Australia are found particularly at Broken Hill and around Cobar in NSW; in north Queensland (including Mt Isa); and in western Tasmania.
Strong growth in electric vehicles may weaken the market for lead. But this does not appear to be happening yet. Lead prices have grown strongly since mid-2020, in common with prices for other base metals (e.g. copper, nickel, tin).
A 1920s Hudson