By Maddi Griebling
In our blog surrounding metals and mining investments pertaining to renewable energy infrastructure, we take a look at zinc, its applications, processes, and the miners of the metal.
Zinc can be used in a variety of ways. Commonly, the metal is allocated to most types of batteries and as a protective layer on other metals to decrease corrosion. The amount of zinc used in batteries is determined by the battery type. From common household batteries to industrial-grade energy technologies, zinc is a necessary material for these applications.
About half of the zinc produced globally is used for zinc galvanizing (when other metals are coated with a thin layer of zinc that will protect the metals against corrosion). Zinc is 100% recyclable and can easily be reused in other products, like paint or tires.
Zinc is commonly used in renewable energy through electric and hybrid cars, solar panels, and wind turbines. Zinc is mostly used through rechargeable batteries, but is also used on wind turbines to keep the metal from corrosion.
Zinc batteries are competing with lithium ion based batteries. The batteries are used in hybrid cars, electric cars, and electric bikes. Lithium ion batteries have been known to overheat and sometimes burst into flames. With recent research, it is found that Nickel-zinc batteries could be the answer to sustain the demand for electric cars in the future. It is less risky to use nickel zinc batteries because there is less risk. There is a lot of Zinc and therefore cheaper than lithium ion because there is more of it. Once zinc can last a long time in a car battery, it could be the leader in electric cars because of the supply.
Homes are big consumers of solar energy, but when the sun is shining, producing energy, most people aren’t home. They use the most energy at night when the sun isn’t out. Having enough storage in solar panels is important in order to collect all the energy during the day and use the stored energy at night. Zinc is a mineral that can store extra energy to use later at a low-cost.
Wind turbines can only be produced when the wind is blowing. The wind might not blow every day, so having a large enough battery to store the energy collected is important. Zinc air batteries are being combined with other chemistry to develop a high-power and high-efficiency storage solution. This could support grid scale integration of wind power. Another reason zinc is important for wind turbines is for the zinc galvanizing, to keep corrosion from ruining the turbines. Zinc is rust and corrosion proof because it keeps the moisture out of the metals, prolonging their life. Putting a coat of zinc on wind turbines could lengthen the life of the turbine.
How is Zinc Processed?
According to General Kinematics, 80% of Zinc is found in underground mines. Once it is mined, the substance is heated to 950 degrees Celsius. This causes zinc, sulfur, and iron oxidation. Once the oxides become powder form and diluted with sulfuric acid, the material is then filtered out to make the final form of zinc.
Suppliers of Zinc
According to Zinc Investing News the top companies with the largest market cap to invest in are:
1. Trevali Mining (TSX:TV): with a market cap of $473.87 million. They have mines located in Peru and New Brunswick.
2. Teck Resources (TSX: TECK A. & TECK B.): with a market cap of $18.19 billion. They have zinc mines located in Alaska, Washington State, and Peru.
3. Hudbay Minerals (TSX: HMB): with a market cap of $2.09 billion. They have a mine located in Manitoba, Canada.
4. Nevsun Resources (TSX: NSU): with a market cap of $1.27 billion. They own 60% of a mine located in Eritrea, South Africa.
Here are a few Junior Miners exploring and developing zinc projects:
1. Fireweed Zinc - The Macmillan Pass Project is host to the large Tom & Jason zinc-lead-silver SEDEX deposits located in Yukon Territory, Canada. Fireweed plans to advance the project through resource definition and exploration, metallurgy, engineering, economic studies, and stakeholder engagement on the path to production.
2. Tinka Resources - A junior exploration company based in Vancouver, Canada, that is developing its 100%-owned Ayawilca project. The 150 square kilometre project is located 40 km northwest of Cerro de Pasco in the richly mineralized silver-lead-zinc belt of Central Peru.
3. Osisko Metals - a zinc-focused base metals exploration and development company with projects in New Brunswick and Quebec.