Argus Media Limited

09/07/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 09/07/2021 06:11

China's antimony prices to rise on output suspensions

Chinese antimony prices are expected to rise in the short term as all antimony smelters in China's Hunan and Guizhou provinces have been ordered to suspend for at least 10 days from 6 September over environmental issues.

Prices for 99.65pc grade metal were assessed at 68,000-70,000 yuan/t ex-works today, the highest last seen on 25 March, up by Yn500/t from Yn67,500-69,500/t ex-works on 2 September despite limited market activity. Export prices increased by $50/t from 2 September to $11,400-11,700/t fob today.

Most metal producers were reluctant to quote prices today or even cancelled orders with some buyers, in light of tight spot supplies and upside potential in prices because of the expected output disruptions. Downstream consumers are monitoring market direction and are unwilling to keep pace with the rising feedstock costs in view of their thin profit margins.

Environmental inspection teams have recently detected high antimony content in the Zijiang river in Hunan province. The local government of Loudi prefecture-level city on 3 September collected antimony scrap in the main production hub of Hsikwangshan city and checked all antimony producers in the city.

State-controlled Hsikwangshan Twinkling Star, the largest antimony producer in China, is on the output suspension list. The firm restarted mining in mid-July after more than a year of suspension after its mining license expired, and resumed metal production at the end of July after a suspension since 16 June on a lack of feedstock availability.

Hsikwangshan, with capacity of 40,000 t/yr for antimony products, produced 26,000t in 2020, down from 28,000t in 2019. It produced 6,600t of antimony metal and 11,000t of antimony trioxide in the first seven months of this year.

Some private-sector metal producers in Lengshuijiang city resumed production in late-August or planned to restart in September after suspending output for a few weeks in August for maintenance. All of the seven producers in the city - Zhirong Antimony, Zhenqiang Antimony, Guangrong Antimony, Yanshan Antimony, Xiangfeng Antimony, Senyi Antimony and Sanjiu Antimony - suspended production this week because of the upcoming environmental inspections on water contamination. The seven producers in Lengshuijiang have a combined metal capacity of 35,000-40,000 t/yr. A lack of concentrate feedstock supplies has forced them to reduce or suspend output intermittently during most of this year.

China produced 20,200t metal equivalent of antimony concentrate during January-June, down by 38.5pc from the same period of 2020, data from China nonferrous metals industry association show. The country imported 26,574t of antimony concentrate during January-July, down by 1.8pc from a year earlier and by 38.8pc from the corresponding period of 2019 because of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to customs data.

The country produced 38,762t of the minor metal during january-July, down by 8pc on the year, with output in Hunan falling to 30,609t from 32,404t, while production in Guizhou increased to 3,222t from 2,158t over the same period.