The Beaver Brook antimony mine in Newfoundland, Canada, is scheduled to reopen after having been on care and maintenance since 2012. The mine was closed down in response to falling antimony prices and is owned by Hunan Nonferrous Metals (HNC), the largest antimony company in the world, itself a part of China Minmetals Nonferrous Metals. Roskill estimates production levels at Beaver Brook accounted for 4-6ktpy of contained antimony until 2012 and the mine has a stated capacity of around 160ktpy of antimony ore.
Antimony prices have been relatively stable, oscillating around US$8,000/t since end-2016, having fallen from a peak of over US$16,000/t in 2011. Roskill estimates the market to have been in surplus since 2011 and, in 2018 as the market reached a new balance, Russian gold miner Polyus added an additional 24kt of contained antimony to the market (equivalent to 20% of global mine supply), which the company mines as a by-product from its Olimpiada gold mine. On the demand side, the modest growth expected in flame retardants and declining demand in lead acid batteries, which are increasingly serviced by secondary antimony, is not expected to move the market into any sizeable deficit. These fundamentals beg the question as to what has brought the Beaver Brook mine back onto the table.
Chinese supply has been declining as reserves are increasingly depleted, nearly halving since peak production in 2010. The grade of Minmetals’ own mine, Twinkling Star, has been decreasing rapidly so that, despite increased mining activity, antimony output has declined. In 2018, many Chinese antimony ingot smelters were stretched in the search for appropriate feedstock to operate their plants. Then came Polyus and large quantities of concentrate. The Polyus gold-bearing material has not met the requirements of many smelters, however, and only a select few have chosen to process the Russian ores. Despite a significant fundamental net surplus China is, therefore, looking to secure feedstock for its plants that service the antimony trioxide industry and, in turn, flame retardants.
Roskill’s 13th edition of the Antimony: Global Industry, Markets & Outlook report was published in August 2018 and includes more information on the antimony market and the supply-demand dynamics that govern the industry. Click here to download the brochure and sample pages, or to access further information.