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Antimony market poised for further growth as critical minerals demand skyrockets

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By Colin Hay - 
Antimony price strength supply issues demand

On the back of the current surge in gold and silver exploration and growing usage as a critical mineral, antimony is forecast to be heading into a dramatic period of growth.

Often found in association with its two more renowned and sought-after geological “roommates,” antimony was for many years considered a bit of a diversion for companies focused on precious metal exploration.

The US International Trade Commission (USITC) once described it as the “critical mineral you have never heard of.”

Belated recognition

Now, with gold and silver exploration taking off again on the back of record pricing and new technical uses for the critical metal growing, antimony is no longer considered an afterthought.

The current antimony market is estimated to be worth $1.58 billion in 2022 and forecast to reach a readjusted size of $2.24b by 2028, with a compound annual growth rate of 6.0% over that period.

The USITC says antimony was key to US production of tungsten steel and the hardening of lead bullets used in combat during World War II.

At that time, up to 90% of antimony demand was fulfilled through domestic production.

Diverse usage

Antimony is today used across numerous industrial sectors, resulting in more diverse consumption than some other critical materials.

As of 2020, the leading uses of antimony in the US were in flame retardants, lead-acid batteries, anti-friction alloys and as a key alloying material for strength (e.g. shielding materials).

A big driver for the new surge in the market, however, is antimony’s use as a critical material in lithium-ion batteries, solar panels and wind turbines due to its flame retardant and anti-corrosive properties.

Market in deficit

According to market data obtained by mineral market specialist Project Blue, the antimony industry fell into a deficit in 2021.

For the first time in history, Chinese ingot smelters had become critically reliant on imported antimony concentrates, unable to keep prices in check.

Project Blue reported recently that antimony prices soared in the second half of May from already high levels following compounding supply constraints.

Project Blue forecasts the market to fall back into deficit in 2024, and recent price data indicates that this time the supply issues could cause some structural changes.

Uncertain future

With Chinese supply dwindling and Russian supply volatile, there is considerable uncertainty over the future of antimony production.

Meanwhile, regulation and technological shifts have the potential to fundamentally reshape demand patterns.

The Costerfield mine in Victoria is the only currently operating antimony mine in Australia, accounting for around 2% to 4% of global antimony mine supply.

However, a number of local and regional explorers are turning their attention to potential antimony resources at their projects as its value continues to grow.