The future of Australian mining minerals: Silver, Lead and Zinc


  • Author National Plant And Equipment
  • Published August 1, 2015
  • Word count 565

Australia is among the largest producers of silver, lead and zinc in the world. With our vast deposits in locations across the country, Australia is at the forefront of technological development in mining and processing of these minerals. So, what how does the future look as our mining boom declines?

As part of our series on The Future of Australian Mining Minerals, this article looks at the current state of play in silver, lead and zinc and the forecast for future growth.

But first, let’s identify the three minerals individually:

Silver: With its relative scarcity, malleability and appearance, silver has been traditionally used for making coins, jewellery, ornaments. In commercial use, it has high electrical and thermal conductivity making it perfect for the electronics industry.

Lead: Lead is one of the oldest metals known to humans. With its malleability and ease of smelting, its early use was in pipes and lead sheeting for construction. Today, lead is used in batteries for vehicles and in communications.

Zinc: Zinc is used in car bodies, roof sheeting and for galvanising iron and steel to protect against rust in large-scale construction projects.


Almost all of Australia’s silver, lead and zinc deposits occur together, with the majority of mining performed underground in highly mechanised operations. The ore is drilled and blasted then transported to the surface for crushing. The finely ground material then undergoes a complex flotation process to separate the pure metal from the waste rock.

Australia has immense silver-lead-zinc deposits, the largest of which are located at McArthur River in the Northern Territory, Cannington and Century in north-west Queensland and Broken Hill in western New South Wales. We are the world’s largest exporter of lead, the second largest exporter of zinc, and the world’s fourth largest exporter of silver.


According to several sources, silver, lead and zinc appear not to have benefitted from the mining boom as much as other minerals. In fact, these three metals have seen an annualised decline of 6.1%, with a 13.2% fall recorded for 2014 alone. Lately, the sector is hurting, with record drops in revenue forcing some mines to close and jobs slashed.

So, how is the outlook for silver, lead and zinc?

Zinc has a slightly better outlook with forecast growth in Chinese zinc demand and Indian steel demand.

Lead is expected to see prices rise as demand increased for batteries and power.

It’s not great news for silver though, with prices expected to decrease in the short term.

As the Australian dollar continues to weaken against the US dollar, annual net profits should go up.

All this points to an end to the days of massive revenue spikes followed by huge declines, with silver-lead-zinc growth over the next three years is expected to be moderate.


As National Plant & Equipment supplies mining machinery to the industry, we know how the downturn has affected businesses and communities. Now more than ever, it’s important to partner with flexible and competitively-priced mining equipment hire companies like National Plant & Equipment.

For all your used mining equipment and mining equipment for hire, you can’t beat our extensive range and years of experience.

Contact us today or read more industry news including more from our series on the Future of Australian Mining Minerals.

At National Plant & Equipment, we recognise that our biggest contribution to your business is to ensure you continue moving from strength to strength. See more at

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