A new antimony metal plant planned in the USA

News Analysis




A new antimony metal plant planned in the USA

  • Nils Backeberg

Irish Metals has signed a non-disclosure and non-circumvent agreement with Xtra Energy Corporation to develop an antimony metal plant in Nevada near Xtra’s antimony project. 

Irish Metals is looking to utilise lower quantities of water and reagents to produce antimony metal using a modified production process, which the company claims will produce near-zero carbon emissions. The agreement with Xtra Energy links the plant to the company’s American Antimony project in Nevada, a historical mine thought to be dormant since 1970.

China is by far the leading producer of antimony metal and the USA and Europe have largely relied on imports to feed markets. However, even China is having supply chain issues with declining domestic reserves causing the country to look outwards for raw materials to feed its smelters. Polyus in Russia filled the gap since 2018, but with the company’s focus on gold, and antimony only representing <1% of revenues, feedstock dropped off in 2021 and 2022, leaving Chinese smelters undersupplied. Even the largest smelters in China have turned to importing antimony metal from other producers to not significantly erode the antimony trioxide market. Project Blue expects the antimony trioxide market to have dropped below 2020 COVID-19 levels in 2023, driven by a lack of supply.

This has emphasised the reliance on Chinese feed for antimony metal, as sellable ingot from China available for imports has all but fallen off. Europe has already turned its attention to US-owned Anzob in Tajikistan, where ingot production has ramped up since 2014 and now accounts for over 60% of feedstock to major antimony chemicals producers in Belgium. In the USA, of the five plants active at the start of the millennium, only one antimony metal and refinery plant remains since 2005 – the Thompson Falls plant in Montana.

Antimony is labelled as a critical material for its use in military applications and is getting growing attention for its use in solar panels, and potential energy storage systems for grid applications. More widely, antimony is used as a flame retardant, finding its way into nearly every sector via its use in plastics. With concentrate supply forecast to remain constrained for Chinese smelters, global availability will remain tight, opening up opportunities for new supply chains to emerge.