China antimony prices hit decade-high on supply squeeze

Beijing, 16 March (Argus) —

The Chinese antimony market has been rising over the past month, with prices hitting a 10-year-high on 15 March driven by continued shortages of concentrate feedstock availability and supply uncertainty because of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Prices for 99.65pc grade antimony metal were last assessed at 80,000-81,000 yuan/t ($12,600-12,760/t) on 15 March, up by Yn8,000/t from 8 February when market participants returned from the lunar new year holiday. Export prices for 99.65pc grade metal were assessed at $13,800-14,000/t fob, up by $200/t fob from 10 March and up sharply by $650/t from a week earlier.

Metal producers have kept lifting their offer prices and are withholding material from sales in response to limited stocks and renewed buying interest.

China produced 35,802t of antimony concentrate in 2021, down by 15pc from the previous year, with it producing 65,661t of antimony metal that was down by 16pc over the same period, according to data from the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association. Production in the first few months of this year are expected to continue falling because of depleted concentrate resources in China, along with reduced concentrate imports from other countries disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and Ukraine-Russia conflict.

China’s January production of antimony metal fell to 7,142t from 8,178t a month earlier and was down from 7,643t a year earlier, with key metal producers in Hunan province reducing production on a lack of concentrate availability. Most private-sector metal producers in the province’s Lengshuijiang city, the largest antimony production hub in China, have yet to reopen their blast furnaces and are maintaining only a few refining furnaces to produce metal. Their refining furnaces are also likely to be closed in April if the concentrate supply shortages continue, according to the producers. The seven producers have a combined metal capacity of 35,000-40,000 t/yr.

The two major antimony producers Hsikwangshan Twinkling Star and Chenzhou Mining have been buying truckloads of metal from private-sector metal producers since late January as they have completed production chains from ore to metal and then to trioxide and downstream products. The two producers have suspended offer prices for metal this week and are prioritising meeting in-house consumption on expectations of further feedstock shortages.

Demand from the domestic downstream alloy and flame retardant industries has remained weak, with most consumers operating from stocks or making purchases for prompt demand because of the consecutive rises in feedstock prices. But antimony suppliers have held firm on their offers in anticipation of renewed demand from downstream consumers after they run out of stocks.

Article Retrieved from: ArgusMetal

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