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Playing hardball, Teck Resources expects zinc processing to get cheaper

Amid negotiations with smelters, Teck Resources Ltd. President and CEO Donald Lindsay said he sees zinc treatment charges falling further.

"I couldn't say by how much," Lindsay said, speaking Feb. 26 at the BMO Global Metals & Mining conference.

Treatment charges are fees smelters charge to process feed, or concentrates, produced at mines. Zinc treatment charges have been falling amid a tight market for feed and with declining stockpiles of zinc metal.

Lindsay was reluctant to go into detail about ongoing negotiations with smelters but said his gut tells him charges will drop. "We're in the driver's seat," he said.

The chief executive also noted, as a counterpoint, that it was in the best interest of miners that the business of smelting remains healthy.

Zinc, used to protect steel, has been one of the better performers price-wise in the past year or so, which has benefited Teck, a major producer of the metal.

The price has more than doubled since it hit lows in early 2015 and recently traded around US$1.60/lb.

Lindsay also called zinc the "tightest" market Teck is involved with, noting the effects of a crackdown on pollution at mines in China on output.