New Century has reduced the number of potential backers of the project to just a handful of international trading houses, several sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Partners will enter multi-year offtake agreements and purchase concentrates, with treatment charges (TCs) set on a floating spot basis, the sources said.

“The trading halt will remain in place until not later than commencement of trading on Wednesday 7 February 2018,” the company said in an announcement on the ASX.

New Century project is on track to bring 264,000 tonnes per year of zinc to the market from July, this year by processing the tailings of the Century mine in Australia.

The project has caused a stir in the market for zinc concentrates, where TCs have declined to multi-year lows due to a lack of supply

Metal Bulletin assessed spot market zinc concentrate TCs at $10-30 per tonne on a cif China basis at the end of January.

Tonnages from the project along with greenfield production from MMG’s Dugald River and Vedanta’s Gamsberg are set to bring 860,000 tpy of mined zinc capacity to the market this year, Société Générale head of metals research Robin Bhar said last week.

The announcement comes as miners and smelters discuss annual supply contracts for zinc concentrates. In initial talks, parties were more than $100 apart on TCs as well as other terms.

“Certainly, there is a lot of mine supply coming in this year that will provide more units available to the smelters,” a second source said.