The Beaver Brook Antimony Mine (BBAM) in central Newfoundland has suspended its operations and laid off the majority of its employees in the wake of a second wave of COVID-19. The company’s management stated that it is not financially feasible to operate the mine during the pandemic. It notes that the operation may be restarted once markets recover for antimony.
Antimony is the poster child of critical materials, appearing on almost every risk list ever published. Consumption of antimony can be segmented into non-metallurgical (mainly flame retardant) and metallurgical (mainly lead-acid battery) applications, where historical trends in consumption for both major applications have followed a downward trend related to substitution.
China is the world’s biggest mine producer of antimony, but supply is expected to fall below half of its 2010 peak over the 2020s. During the mid-2010s, China imported growing volumes of artisanal antimony feedstock from all over the world to try and replace declining domestic supply. Since 2018, however, artisanal antimony supply has completely fallen off. This is mainly because Chinese plants have managed to secure consistent feed from international sources, specifically in the form of by-product antimony from gold mines.
The Beaver Brook Antimony Mine in Canada is owned by Chinese Hunan Nonferrous Metals (HNC), the largest antimony company in the world, itself a part of China Minmetals Nonferrous Metals. The mine was originally suspended in 2012 and reopened in Q1 2019. However, with growing supply from Russia to China, BBAM ore was exported to various non-China-based ingot producers in Vietnam, India and Oman. Oman has been the major destination in 2020, with the Oman Antimony Roaster owned by SPMP accounting for nearly all of the mine’s output. SPMP officially commissioned its plant in 2020 after several years of delays, with the main concern having been securing feed for its 20ktpy antimony ingot plant.
SPMP is targeting Western markets alongside growing ingot supply from Tajikistan, Vietnam and, more recently, Myanmar. It offers a non-Chinese alternative to consumers in Europe, the USA and Japan who import between 10ktpy and 15ktpy of Chinese ingot. The closure of BBAM cuts off a potential key supply of feed to the Oman roaster and may (unless SPMP sources alternative concentrates) have the effect of forcing customers to stick to Chinese refined material.
Roskill’s NEW Antimony: Outlook to 2030, 14th Edition report is out NOW and outlines the mine-to-market fundamentals and forecasts of the industry. For more information or to subscribe, click here.