The primary use of lead is within batteries. Over 75% of lead demand is utilised in lead-acid batteries, primarily for vehicle transport fleets.
Demand has increased from 7.3Mt in 2004 to 10.6Mt in 2015 - this represents an increase in demand of 45% over 11 years. Leading industry analysts Wood Mackenzie (Q3 2016) forecast 3.1% c.a.g.r for lead over the next 5 years.
Demand 2010-2015 was up 28%, primarily through China demand growth but increasing in North America and Europe as well.
The largest lead mine in the world is the Cannington lead-zinc-silver mine in Queensland operated by South 32. It opened in 1997 with a forecast mine life of 25 years.
There is considerable recycling of lead but this does not replace loss and new supply is required annually.
Galena Mining is evaluating production scenarios with the equivalent of 50-100,000tpa contained lead. This would represent less than 1% of world demand.
LME stockpiles have shown consistent decline over the past 5 years as production supply has not been keeping pace with demand
The principal ore mineral of lead is galena (PbS) which has a specific gravity of 7.6g/cm3 which ranks it as one of the densest minerals. Production to concentrate is typically completed by crush-grind and flotation circuit to make a lead-rich concentrate. This would be exported and refined into finished lead at a smelter location in Asia, Europe or North America. Export of lead concentrate is conducted out of Geraldton in the mid west district of Western Australia.
Prices have improved and are robust with Australian dollar prices at their highest point post GFC (A$1.50/lb or A$3,300/t.
Sources Deutsche Bank, CHR Metals Publication October 2016, United States Geological Service, Wood Mackenzie