of lead and zinc have seen a sharp decrease on the market. Statistics show that since May 2007 the price of zinc billet has decreased by 53 percent to 15,650 yuan per ton, and the price of lead billet was down by 34.74 percent to 16,500 yuan per ton.
Falling prices have put domestic companies in great difficulties, said Tong Leshen, an analyst with the Shanghai Nonferrous Metals Trade Association. Apart from the smelters, some mining resource companies in the sector are also under big pressure.
There may be a global oversupply of 215,000 tons of zinc this year, the International Lead and Zinc Study Group said in April. Lead may have an excess of 26,000 tons, the group said.
From January to May this year, China's lead consumption has seen a decrease of 50,000 tons, but the manufacturing capacity continues to see increases, said China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association. This year, provinces such as Shaanxi, Hunan, Yunnan and Gansu have all seen new lead projects come on stream.
Analysts said lead and zinc smelters will continue to see 2008 and 2009 as challenging times with rapid growth in global mine production and slowed growth in demand.
Some analysts suggested that China should build national reserves for lead and zinc, in a move to prevent prices from rising too high or falling too low.