Zinc prices were mostly rangebound in 2023 as the market shifted into oversupply. Although the sector is expected to cool further in 2024, ultimately experts agree that its long-term fundamentals remain healthy.
Many base metals have been hit with weakened demand in the past year due to sticky inflation and higher interest rates, and zinc is no exception. Zinc supply has also faced pressure from higher mining and refining costs, causing some major zinc operations and smelters to suspend operations, with more possible if the current economic situation continues. Once demand rebounds along with the economy, stunted supply may once again push zinc prices to the upside.
Data was gathered on January 26, 2024, using TradingView’s stock screener, and only companies with market caps greater than C$50 million at that time were considered. Read on to learn more about their operations and plans.
1. Teck Resources (TSX:TECK.A,TSX:TECK.B)
Market cap: C$27.9 billion; current share price: C$53.55
Teck Resources is a major global polymetallic mining company, as well as one of the top zinc producers in the world. It produced 644,000 metric tons (MT) of zinc in concentrate in 2023, with 539,800 MT coming from its Red Dog zinc mine in Alaska. The remaining 104,200 MT came from Teck’s 22.5 percent share of zinc production from the Antamina copper-zinc mine in Peru. Total production guidance for 2024 is set in a range of 565,000 MT to 630,000 MT.
The company also owns the Trail operations, which it describes as ‘one of the world’s largest fully integrated zinc and lead smelting and refining complexes.’ A March 2023 report shows that Trail has an extremely low carbon footprint, with output of 0.93 MT of carbon dioxide equivalent produced per MT of zinc; that’s compared to a global average of 3 to 4 MT. In July 2023, the company received C$10 million in funding for its carbon capture utilization and storage pilot project at Trail. The Trail operations produced 266,600 MT of refined zinc last year, with 275,000 to 290,000 MT expected in 2024.
In June 2023, Trail became the first standalone zinc-processing site to receive the Zinc Mark verification. ‘To achieve the Zinc Mark, Teck’s Trail Operations was assessed and independently verified against 32 responsible production criteria including greenhouse gas emissions, community health and safety, respect for Indigenous rights and business integrity,’ the company explained in a press release at the time.
2. Lundin Mining (TSX:LUN)
Market cap: C$8.58 billion; current share price: C$12.65
Lundin Mining is a major base metals producer with mines in the Americas and Europe.
The company puts out significant amounts of zinc from its two European mines, the Neves-Corvo copper-zinc mine in Portugal and the Zinkgruvan zinc-lead-copper mine in Sweden. In fact, the company’s zinc output is second only to its copper production, with 2023 output for the two metals coming in at 314,798 MT copper and 185,161 MT zinc. The company’s zinc production guidance for 2024 is in the range of 195,000 to 215,000 MT.
3. Fireweed Metals (TSXV:FWZ)
Market cap: C$158.39 million; current share price: C$1.06
Fireweed Metals is a critical metals company whose flagship Macmillan Pass zinc project is located in Canada’s Yukon. The company also has the Gayna River zinc project in the Northwest Territories and the Mactung tungsten project, which is in both the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. The company acquired Gayna and Mactung in 2023.
Even with these new assets, the company still has a strong focus on Macmillan Pass. In fact, in November 2023, the Fireweed team, led by Dr. Jack Milton, the firm’s vice president of geology, received the 2023 Association for Mineral Exploration H.H. “Spud” Huestis Award for their work at the Macmillan Pass property.
Exploration in the fall of 2022 brought the highest-grade assays seen anywhere at the project, with a highlight of 60 meters at 19 percent zinc within 124 meters grading 12.3 percent zinc. The hits kept coming from Macmillan Pass during Fireweed’s 2023 drill campaign, the largest exploration program conducted at the project to date. Recent drill results released in January 2024 include intersections of 44 meters true width at 18.98 percent zinc, and 47 meters true width of 11.58 percent zinc at Boundary zone at Macmillan Pass.
4. Emerita Resources (TSXV:EMO)
Market cap: C$106.84 million; current share price: C$0.46
Emerita Resources has a portfolio of high-grade, large-scale polymetallic projects covering more than 26,000 combined hectares in Spain’s Iberian Pyrite Belt. The company’s flagship asset is the Iberian Belt West project, which hosts three massive sulfide deposits: La Infanta, La Romanera and El Cura.
Emerita released a mineral resource estimate for the Iberian Belt West project in May 2023. It finished environmental baseline studies the following month, and completed the required supporting documentation for its mining license application in December. After C$11 million worth of financings closed in June, Emerita is focused on advancing the asset toward permitting and a production decision. The company is targeting the first half of 2024 for the completion of metallurgical testing and engineering and economic studies.
5. Trilogy Metals (TSX:TMQ)
Market cap: C$99.77 million; current share price: C$0.64
Trilogy Metals is a polymetallic company focused primarily on copper, zinc and cobalt at its Alaskan Upper Kobuk projects. Its most advanced zinc project is the Arctic copper-zinc-lead-gold-silver volcanogenic massive sulfide project, which is in the feasibility stage and has proven and probable reserves of 43.44 million MT grading 3.12 percent zinc. The project is held by Ambler Metals, a joint venture operating company owned equally by Trilogy and South32 (ASX:S32,OTC Pink:SHTLF). Trilogy is currently working to advance permitting at the project and is performing further exploration as well.
In addition, recent early stage field work at the company’s wholly owned Helpmejack project in Alaska’s Ambler Schist Belt has outlined two target areas prospective for volcanogenic massive sulfide and shale-hosted zinc deposits.
Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.