Zinc producers in spotlight as demand powers past supply
The recent shining on lithium has put other battery technologies – such as zinc – in the shadows, even though they have been around for generations. When it comes to disposable batteries, carbon zinc has undoubtedly proven its value, though the technology for a time was less successful when applied to rechargeable batteries. Recharging causes the formation of sharp-edged zinc dendrites that pierce the separation between anode and cathode and cause the battery to short-circuit. However, a team at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., has found a way to avoid dendrite buildup by making the anodes with a sponge-like structure, and zinc carbon is set to enjoy a renaissance.
According to the International Lead & Zinc Study Group, the 10 largest zinc companies account for roughly 45% of world total, leaving plenty of room for smaller producers like Zinc One Resources, Inc. (OTC: ZZZOF) (TSX-V: Z) (Zinc One Profile) that are paced alongside large-cap producers: Hudbay Minerals, Inc. (NYSE: HBM) (TSX: HBM), Ivanhoe Mines Ltd.(OTC: IVPAF) (TSX: IVN), Lundin Mining Corp. (OTC: LUNMF) (TSX: LUN) and Trevali Mining Corp. (OTC: TREVF) (TSX: TV).
In April 2017 the premiere journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science published a paper written by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory's Chemistry Division (http://nnw.fm/J4yZn). An abstract of that research paper is titled "Rechargeable nickel-3D zinc batteries: An energy-dense, safer alternative to lithium-ion" and confidently proclaims that "zinc can compete with lithium." Furthermore, the journal of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) muses that, "Zinc Battery Breakthrough Could Mean Safer, Lighter Cars and Smartphones" (http://nnw.fm/hZ5iS).
In 2016, Peru's zinc production was second only to China's output. At 25 million tons, the country's zinc reserves are the world's third highest, according to the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Commodities Summary for January 2017(http://nnw.fm/Uq2Kl). Peru is also where Zinc One Resources (OTC: ZZZOF) (TSX-V: Z.V) is also focused on the exploration and development of prospective and advanced zinc projects. The company has its key assets: the past-producing Bongará Zinc-Oxide Mine Project (Bongará) and the adjoining Charlotte Bongará Zinc Oxide concessions (Charlotte Bongará). The Bongará was in production from 2007 to 2008 but had to close due to declining zinc prices associated with the 2008 financial crisis. The Charlotte Bongará concessions is very prospective and has several at-surface high-grade drill intercepts providing numerous drill targets and great blue-sky exploration potential.
Historical data on the Bongará Zinc-Oxide project – which spans a concession area of more than 19,768 acres – shows, zinc grades above 20 percent and past metallurgical recoveries exceeding 90 percent, placing it in the highest percentile bracket of known zinc deposits.
In August 2017, Zinc One received approval to suspend the mine closure at the former Bongará Zinc-Oxide mine. This was undertaken by Zinc One in order to advance its exploration activity with plans bring the project back into production (http://nnw.fm/8aEw4). The approval of the suspension by the Peru Ministry of Energy and Mines allowed Zinc One to utilize the current Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) attached to the project to shorten the timeline to obtain current and future permits for exploration.
Zinc One objective is to delineate and update the historical resource and then be aggressive in taking the next steps to move the company into a producer generating cash flow. The company is extremely confident that it can match or exceed the historical resource at the Bongará Mine Project. The Company will have years of exploration along a six-kilometer strike length on the Bongará concessions as well as the prospective Charlotte Bongará concessions. The company anticipates a completed updated resource estimate by Q2 of 2018 with a target of between 1.2 million-2 million tons of zinc at 20 percent grade followed in short order by a Preliminary Economic Assessment.
Zinc One is bringing Bongará back into production at a prime time, as world stockpiles of zinc hover at multi-year lows, outpaced by demand for the first time in a decade. Additionally, zinc prices are currently at their highest levels in 10 years, trading at $3,200.75 as of October 27, 2017.
As Zinc One digs into the rich potential in Peru and the overall appetite for zinc, the company leverages the expertise of a team of well-qualified and experienced exploration geologists and engineers. CEO Walchuck is a mining professional with over 38 years of national and international experience in the minerals industry, including work in North America, Slovakia, the UK, Ghana and Tanzania. From 1999 to 2002, Walchuck was the mining manager for Barrick at the Bulyanhulu Gold Mine in Tanzania where he oversaw the building of a multi-million-ounce, high-grade underground mine.
The other directors have a mix of geological, exploration and finance experience. COO Dr. Bill Williams is an economic geologist with extensive experience in South America and a PhD, Economic Geology from the University of Arizona. He is the former chief executive officer and president of Orvana Minerals Corp. and since leaving that company in 2013, has been a consultant to the mining industry. Prior to joining Orvana Minerals, he was a vice president for Phelps Dodge Exploration. Also on the team is Greg Crowe, who is a professional geologist with more than 35 years of exploration, business and entrepreneurial experience that spans North America, Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia. Since August 2016, Crowe has served as CEO and president of Silver One Resources Inc., a mineral exploration company with silver projects in the United States and Mexico. Another member, Barry Girling has been active in various aspects of mineral exploration since 1977. He couples his geological understanding with a B.Com finance degree to provide consulting services to a number of TSX Venture Exchange companies.
Currently valued at USD$36 million, Zinc One is worth keeping an eye on as it participates in an industry led by larger cap producers.
Like Zinc One, Hudbay Minerals (NYSE: HBM) (TSX: HBM) is taking advantage of zinc's performance and lagging supply. With market valuation of USD$1.9 billion, this Canadian integrated mining company has operations, development properties and exploration activities across the Americas, principally focused on the discovery, production and marketing of base and precious metals. The company produced 110,582 tons of zinc in 2016 and is expecting output of between 125,000 and 150,000 tons in 2017. It has zinc properties in the Flin Flon Greenstone Belt of Manitoba, Canadaand copper, gold and silver properties in Canada, Peru and the United States.
Meanwhile, Ivanhoe Mines (OTCQX: IVPAF) (TSX: IVN) has confirmed the new Kakula West discovery in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Reported assays returned 8.86 meters grading 5.83% copper that included a higher-grade intercept of 6.17 meters grading 6.84% copper. The discovery extended the Kakula along a confirmed strike length of 6.8 kilometers. The company, operating for 24 years in Southern Africa, has three major projects. The Kamoa-Kakula copper mine is located in the Congo's Central African Copper Belt. The Platreef mine in South Africa's Bushveld Complex produces platinum group elements, as well as copper, gold and nickel. And in the DRC, the Kipushi mines yields copper, germanium, silver and zinc. Ivanhoe has a market cap over USD$2.5 billion.
Another serious player is USD$5.5 billion Lundin Mining (OTC: LUNMF) (TSX: LUN), which has operations in Chile, Finland, Portugal, Sweden and the USA. A subsidiary, Somincor, mines for copper and zinc at Neves-Corvo in Portugal. And the company has another copper and zinc mine in Stockholm, Sweden.
Also in the game is Trevali Mining (OTCQX: TREVF) (TSX: TV), which is actively producing zinc concentrates from four major properties. The first is its wholly-owned Santander mine in Peru, the second is the wholly-owned Caribou mine in the Bathurst Mining Camp of northern New Brunswick, the third, its 80% owned Rosh Pinah mine in Namibia and the fourth, its 90% owned Perkoa mine in Burkina Faso. Trevali also owns the Halfmile and Stratmat base metal deposits located in New Brunswick, which are currently undergoing a Preliminary Economic Assessment reviewing their potential development. Trevali is valued at $882+ million.
Zinc prices have doubled since January 2016, and while global supplies are at multiyear lows, demand is predicted to grow steadily in upcoming years. With the outlook on zinc in favorable territory, exploration companies and active producers are poised to capture their share of market growth.