Antimony (symbol Sb) is a lustrous, extremely brittle and hard crystalline semi-metal that is silvery white in its most common allotropic form. Antimony is a poor conductor of heat and electricity. In nature, antimony has a strong affinity for sulfur and for such metals as lead, silver, and copper. Antimony is primarily a byproduct of the mining, smelting and refining of lead, silver, and copper ores. There is no longer any mine production of antimony in the U.S.
The most common use of antimony is in antimony trioxide, a chemical that is used as a flame retardant in textiles, plastics, adhesives and building materials. Antimony trioxide is also used in battery components, ceramics, bearings, chemicals, glass, and ammunition.
Prices - Antimony prices in 2007 rose by +8.8% to a record high average of 253.89 cents per pound. Antimony prices in 2007 were almost four times the 33-year low price of 66.05 cents per pound posted as recently as 1999. Bullish factors included stronger U.S. and global economic growth in 2007, the weak dollar, and tight supplies.
Supply - World mine production of antimony in 2006 (the latest year available) fell by 5.6% to 134,000 metric tons. China accounted for 82% of world antimony production in 2006, down from 91% in 2002. After China, the only significant producers were Bolivia (5% of world production), South Africa (5%), and Russia (3%). China's production level fell 8.3% in 2006 but some of that was offset by increased production in Bolivia and Russia. Estimated U.S. secondary production of antimony in 2006 rose by +14.9% yr/yr to 3,480 metric tons from 3,030 metric tons in 2005.
Demand - U.S. industrial consumption of antimony in 2006 rose +13.8% to 10,400 metric tons from 9.140 metric tons in 2005. Of the consumption in the U.S. in 2006, 37% was used for flame-retardants, 29% was used for metal products, and 35% was used for non-metal products.
Trade -Total U.S. imports of antimony ore in 2006 fell by about 1.2% from 2005. Gross weight fell 1.0% to 205 metric tons and antimony content fell 25.0% to 153 metric tons. Imports of antimony oxide, however, in 2006 rose by +1.5% to 27,700 metric tons from 27,300 metric tons in 2005. U.S. exports of antimony oxide rose by +20% to 2,020 metric tons from 1,680 metric tons in 2005.