Hindustan Zinc becomes ninth-largest silver producer in the world

India’s zinc and lead major Hindustan Zinc (HZL), from Anil Agarwal-led Vedanta group, has become the world’s ninth largest silver producer in calendar year 2018 (CY18). The firm improved its ranking from last year’s 11th spot, according to the data provided by Washington-based Silver Institute, a global body of all silver stakeholders, from mines to consumers.

Also, India has become the 12th largest silver producer in the world, from last year’s position of 13.

In its World Silver Survey 2019, released early this week, the institute said, “Silver output in Asia in 2018 increased to 5,809 tonne and the biggest growth was posted in India’s HZL. The company’s underground operations increased its mining output, while better silver grades boosted silver production by 16 per cent in relation to 2017, to a record level of 19.6 Moz (610 tonne) in CY18.”

HZL Chief Executive Officer Sunil Duggal told Business Standard, “The company has increased its production of silver manifold in the past 15 years from 41 mt in FY02 to 679 mt in FY19.”

“The company has plans to produce 1,000 tonne of silver in the next two years and quite eager to produce 1,500 tonne in the next 5-6 years.”

With production touching 1,000 tonne, the firm would be counted among the top five global producers. It’s eying the second largest position — after Fresnillo plc — when it achieves the 1,500-tonne production mark.

Duggal explained that the company has mined lead, and more silver could be recovered from that compared to zinc. Going forward, “we are modifying processes to increase higher silver recovery from zinc and also from waste. In some mines we have been able to recover up to 83 per cent silver. The processes will also help improve recovery of zinc and lead from waste.”

HZL is the only integrated silver producer in India and produces about 95 per cent of the country’s primary silver. Last year, its silver refinery, located at Pantnagar in Uttarakhand, was recognised by London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) and was added to the “London Good Delivery” list. HZL sells a large chunk of the silver directly to industrial users.

On futures plans for increased mining which would also result in higher silver production, Duggal said the company has successfully moved to underground mining, a significant achievement.

In five years’ time, the company “wants to achieve 1.5 million tonne”, he said.

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