October 23, 2020: Global demand for lead will fall by 6.5% to 11.4 million tonnes in 2020 because of the drop in car production, said the International Lead and Zinc Study Group at its session via a web conference on October 19.
The biggest drop in lead use would be seen in Europe, with a 9.7% fall, the group said — because this region had been worst affected the most by the Covid pandemic. The US would follow with a 7.5% fall in usage, it said.
“The automotive sector in these regions was particularly affected by the Covid pandemic-related nationwide lockdowns, with unprecedented falls in new car sales in a number of European countries, lower rates of automobile utilization that reduced the demand for replacement batteries and temporary suspensions at major automotive assembly plants,” the ILZSG said.
“However, according to the group’s latest predictions, refined lead usage will recover by 7.9% in Europe and 2.6% in the United States in 2021.”
China’s fall was expected to be much smaller, at 1.6%, because the decline in car production was partially offset by greater demand for lead batteries for e-bikes.
Global mine supply would drop by 4.7% but recover by about the same again next year, the group said.
“In 2020, Covid-19 related restrictive measures severely impacted the mining industry in a number of countries including Bolivia, Mexico, Peru and South Africa,” said the group. “Output is also expected to fall in Argentina, Australia, Kazakhstan and Canada, where activities at the Silvertip and Caribou mines were suspended during the first quarter of 2020.”
In China, industries in 85 cities including lead smelters have been ordered to cut production over the winter months in a bid to reduce air pollution, which has exceeded pre-Covid levels, according to the World Economic Forum.
However, cutting production is unlikely to affect supply — “there’s plenty of lead around” said one industry observer.