Zinc mine tailings: A resource for the future
Growing demand for zinc together with the need to replace closed mines creates the requirement for sources of zinc to be developed in the coming years. The bulk of this requirement will be met through the construction of new mines and expansions of existing ones. A relatively modest portion of this could met from secondary sources of zinc and the more widespread reprocessing of mine tailings. There are currently four active zinc tailing operations and many more active projects globally. Relatively low pre-production and sustaining costs make these resources appealing for exploitation. However, not all mine tailings are available for subsequent reprocessing. Its subsequent usage as part of the mining process or for land repurposing, and factors stemming from the pre-existing deposit geology, may all impact a tailing deposit's repurposing. Using Wood Mackenzie's historical lead and zinc mine datasets starting from 1981 we estimate an in-situ metal value of $98 billion.