Both production and consumption of antimony peaked in 2011, driven by continued growth in demand for of antimony in flame retardants and its use in lead-acid batteries. Whilst growth in demand is set to continue through 2012 and beyond, production is unlikely to increase significantly over the long term.
China is by far the world's largest producer of primary antimony. However, China's share of world production fell from around 85% in the mid-2000s to less than 75% in 2011.
Government policy in China continues to impact supply. Chinese smelter capacity has been reduced as smaller, more polluting operations are closed down. This, together with increasing crackdowns on illegal mines and smuggling, may contribute to volatile production levels. Roskill estimates that illegal supply from China amounted to 15-20% of total world supply from 2008 to 2011. If the Chinese government is successful in halting or diminishing illegal production and export of antimony, the effect on global supply will be considerable.
Further, whilst official Chinese statistics still report considerable reserves, independent estimates suggest that high-grade reserves, particularly in the in the area of Lengshuijiang City, the centre of antimony mining in China, are running low.
In the short term, increased production in the Rest of World should offset any decline in Chinese production, sustaining the growing market for imported concentrates in China. A number of potential additional sources of antimony concentrates have been identified, notably in Australia, Canada, Mexico and Russia.
Uncertainty over supply and growing demand is likely to support antimony metal prices at <US$11,500/t.