Lead - Statistics & Facts

Lead is a chemical element that is characterized as a base post-transition metal. Australia holds the world’s largest lead reserves, at some 36 million metric tons as of 2019, although China has the highest lead mine production worldwide. Prior to the recognition of lead’s toxicity in the late nineteenth century, lead was used in a variety of applications that it is no longer used for today due to health concerns. However, lead still has many end uses today, such as batteries, bullets, paints, alloys, and more.

In spite of its potential health effects, lead continues to be a valuable commodity. After a dip during the commodities slump of 2015, the price of lead rebounded, generally amounting to around 2,000 U.S. dollars per metric ton, or an estimated 100 U.S. dollars per pound in the North American market in 2019. The United States exhibiting an increased import reliance on the metal.

Returns on lead investments have fluctuated since 2008, and were negative in 2018 and 2019. Glencore, Doe Run, and Hindustan Zinc are the major lead producing companies, accounting for an annual total production of around 700 thousand metric tons.

Lead is also recyclable. Not only does the secondary lead recycled from scrap reduce the necessity of mining, it also ensures that scrap lead is less likely to cause negative health effects when it is discarded. In 2019, this was some 1.2 million metric tons.

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