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The scarcity of "antimony" resources

Time: 2021-05-28
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Antimony, one of the 'four kings' of China's strategic resources, have you heard of it? 


Antimony is a gray metal with a silver luster. It mainly exists in the form of the sulfide mineral stibnite in nature. Pure antimony has low hardness, so it cannot be used to make hard objects. However, antimony occupies an important position in my country's national economy. In the field of modern science and technology, antimony and its compounds are widely used in flame retardants, alloys, enamels, batteries, semiconductors, munitions and other fields.


In the pre-dynasty era of Egypt in 3100 BC, the nobles took advantage of the gleam of antimony silver and used the natural product antimony trioxide as eye shadow powder for ladies. After the 18th century, European scientists discovered other uses of antimony, and only then began to use the roasting reduction method to refine antimony. With the continuous development of industrialization and the continuous improvement of antimony smelting technology, the output of antimony is also increasing steadily.


Rare earth is not scarce compared to antimony

The European Union has included the metal antimony in the list of 14 mineral raw materials that are in short supply. The United States and Japan also rely heavily on imports for antimony resources. The 'Global Proved Reserves of Antimony' report released by the United States in 2019 shows that the current global antimony reserves are about 1.5 million tons, of which China is 480,000 tons, accounting for 32%; Bolivia is 310,000 tons, accounting for 21%; Russia is 180,000 tons, accounting for 12%, antimony minerals are distributed in Australia, Turkey and other places. The United States also has antimony ore reserves, but it has always only allowed exploration and not mining, so it has been imported from China for a long time.

Compared with another strategic resource of rare earth, we can see how scarce antimony resources are. The global reserves of rare earths are 130 million tons, China's reserves are 55 million tons, and the reserves of antimony are only 1.2% of the rare earth reserves.


Where did China's antimony mine come from

my country's antimony mines are scattered in 18 provinces and autonomous regions, among which Hunan has the most, accounting for 20.4% of the total output. Antimony mines began to be mined in Hunan in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties and were first mistaken for tin, so antimony mines have always been called 'tin mines'. Between 1892 and 1929, tin mines produced nearly 470,000 tons of antimony. From the early days of the founding of the People’s Republic of China to the 1980s, 170,000 tons of antimony were produced. The tin mine’s tin production has been increasing until the 21st century.

Beginning in 2009, the Ministry of Land and Resources of my country decided to regulate tin mining. Since then, production and exports have begun to shrink sharply. After 2012, industry expenditures in the antimony mining industry have dropped by 49%. Since 2005, China is still the country with the largest antimony production in the world, accounting for 84% of the world's total. In 2016, China's antimony production dropped to 72%. In recent years, the proportion of industry scale has been stable at around 70%. Until 2019, the use of antimony ore resources in my country has adopted the self-mining plus import model, and 50% of the antimony ore is imported to ensure that the antimony ore has sufficient strategic reserves.


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