The global financial crisis had a significant impact on antimony prices, which bottomed out at US$4,400/t in Q1 2009. Prices then recovered strongly, and surged to reach nearly US$17,000/t by Q2 2011 before beginning slow, gradual decline to Q1 2015 when prices dropped below US$8,000/t. In Q2 2015 prices have seen some recovery - reaching nearly US$9,000/t - but the market remains unsure of how price trends will play out.
Growth in antimony consumption averaged around 5.5%py during the mid-2000s, but fell between 2008 and 2009 as the global economic downturn affected demand for antimony products across almost all end-uses. Demand recovered to some extent, but has remained sluggish owing to lower-than-expected levels of growth in China, a slow recovery in the USA, and the Euro-crisis.
Around 80% of antimony mine production is converted antimony trioxide which is used principally in flame retardant (FR) formulations for textiles, plastics and rubber, and as a catalyst for the production of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Lower than expected demand, and increasing levels of substitution in some FR formulations have taken their toll on the market and caused a drop in prices. Substitution remains a real concern for the market, and an understanding of future trends in the FR sector is essential for a wide number of market participants.Global demand trends have also taken their toll on automotive and construction sectors, impacting demand for antimony in metallurgical applications. The principal use of antimony metal is as an ingredient in lead alloys where it imparts hardness, strength, anticorrosion and other properties. Antimonial lead is used chiefly for automotive and stand-by batteries. Other uses are in lead alloys for construction, solders, ammunition, corrosion resistant pipes and cable sheathing.
The market is now in a state of oversupply. Mine production is spread across a wide number of countries with China, Russia, Bolivia, Tajikistan, South Africa, Australia and Myanmar all being significant producers. Growth in supply is, however, slowing as producers continue to face challenges - namely low market prices, together with rising operating costs and the continued need to meet environmental requirements. Nonetheless, oversupply is expected to continue over the short-term. There are several new projects which might augment supply over the next-decade; although without a strong price/demand incentive it is unlikely that many will enter production. The success of projects will be governed by cost competitiveness and integration potential.
Roskill's 2015 antimony report provides an evidence-based outlook for prices, based on an independent review of underlying drivers, industry and macro trends:
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