Antimony Prices And Market
Antimony is a specialty metal, commonly found in nature in its sulphide form of stibnite. Saleable products include antimony metal (ingot) and antimony trioxide, a white powder. Its uses include:
- fire retardant agent
- hardening/strengthening agent for lead and zinc alloys
- lead batteries, ammunition
- catalyst in PET (plastics) production
In 1997, when Taipan discovered the Eastern Hills mineralisation, the antimony price was depressed, at or below US$2,000 per tonne and the lead price was around US$550 per tonne. Global commodity prices, and specifically antimony prices, have undergone a significant surge, particularly in the past four years, following a period of sustained rises over the past decade (See adjacent figure).
For some years, antimony and copper prices have tracked very closely (See figure above). But despite the robust consistency of copper pricing over recent years, since early 2010, the antimony price has de-coupled from its more famous base metal “cousin” and has surged to record highs with antimony pricing currently 50% higher than that of copper.
Since the record monthly average price for antimony ingot reached US$16,800 per tonne in March 2011, antimony prices have remained strong, currently trading at around US$10,000 per tonne, a five-fold increase since the Eastern Hills deposit was first reported in 1997. This has the potential to significantly enhance the economic parameters of the Eastern Hills deposit.
Global antimony output has been dominated by the Chinese for many years (See figure above). However, with lower output from China since 2009, new sources of antimony are required. The Chinese-owned Beaver Brook mine in Canada filled that void in 2010 and 2011 but recent announcements indicate that this mine is to be closed down.
- Global output rose almost 70% from 2003 to 2008 and has stabilised post GFC
- Despite post GFC falls, China dominates global production (~85% in 2011 – USGS)
- China has imposed export quotas on strategic commodities such as antimony over recent years
- “Other” dominated by Canada in 2010-11
- Remainder of output from high sovereign risk countries
- China production decreases reinforce the need for new antimony sources
This reliance on China as a source of global antimony has led to the European Commission placing antimony on its list of 14 Critical Raw Materials, based on supply risk, economic importance and environmental country risk.