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24/04/2024
Mining News

Record antimony production at Olimpiada

Polyus, Russia’s largest gold producer, has reported record antimony contained in flotation concentrate production from its Olimpiada mine in H1 2023.

In 2018, the Olimpiada mine entered the antimony supply chain with an output of 23.6kt Sb – instantly becoming the world’s largest source of antimony concentrates. The concentrate from Olimpiada required antimony smelters in China to adapt their flow sheets to account for the higher gold and lower antimony grades compared to other gold-antimony concentrates already in circulation at the time. This took some time to commission but now even the largest antimony metal smelters in China with captive antimony ores can benefit from gold credits in their flow sheets.

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By 2021, Polyus had reduced the output of antimony concentrates significantly, as the company benefitted from rising gold prices as its primary revenue stream. This dropped the antimony market into deficit, requiring the same largest antimony metal producers that adapted to feed from Polyus to purchase in metal to fulfil downstream orders of antimony trioxide.

While the gold price remains high, antimony prices have remained above 2017/18 levels when Polyus first kicked off antimony production. Prices for antimony ingots have been above US$10,000/t since mid-2021 when Polyus turned off the taps on antimony output at Olimpiada. The addition of concentrates from Olimpiada masked an underlying concern of critically low domestic concentrate output in China, which has been declining for over a decade.

The return of Polyus in 2023 at record levels will be crucial to stabilising the antimony market this year, which is at threat of seeing sustained demand destruction if supply is unable to materialise. The risk remains, however, with Polyus able to quickly move the market in and out of balance with its decisions at one mine. If Polyus chooses to maintain >20ktpy contained antimony output, supply should be sufficient to support a recovery in antimony demand. At lower levels, currently averaging around 10ktpy, new supply from projects will be required to protect antimony from losing market share in its key applications.

 

Source: project blue

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