The world's lead-zinc mineral resources: Scarcity, data, issues and opportunities

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Ore Geology Reviews



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Lead and zinc keep humanity powered and sheltered, yet a comprehensive understanding of Pb-Zn resources in known mineral deposits has been lacking, leading to uncertainty over when we might expect the supply of these metals to face potential constraints. Addressing this, we compile an extensive database of the world's known Pb-Zn mineral deposits and provide in-depth analyses of their contained resources, ore-grades, economic value, by-products and geological settings. Our data indicate that at least 226.1 Mt Pb and 610.3 Mt Zn are present within 851 individual mineral deposits and mine waste projects from 67 countries (and one in international waters), at an average grade of 0.44 %Pb and 1.20 %Zn. The identified resources are dominantly present within sediment-hosted Pb-Zn deposits (490.6 Mt Pb + Zn + Cu), which contain the equivalent of VMS, Skarn, Porphyry, Epithermal and mixed sediment-hosted deposits combined, and 49% of these resources are reported in Australia, Russia, Peru and Canada alone. The reported Pb-Zn resources appear to be sufficient to meet global demand for both Pb and Zn until 2050, although this estimate is most certainly a minimum, as our case studies indicate a prevailing trend of deposits cumulatively producing well beyond their reported resources over time. Indeed, despite increasing historical production of Pb and Zn, estimated reserves and resources have also increased, and this is expected to continue. We also present an analysis and review of additional aspects affecting the future sustainability of Pb-Zn resources, including an account of the history of Pb-Zn mining, case studies and trends in reporting, classifications of the dominant Pb-Zn mineral deposit types, analysis of reported by-product companion metals, review of tailings resource potential and case studies on the numerous challenges in environmental management historically faced for Pb-Zn mining. These analyses, alongside our comprehensive resource data, indicate that the future supply of Pb and Zn is likely to be governed by prevailing economic, social and environmental factors, much more so than sheer resource constraints. © 2016



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