Metal Bulletin assessed MMTA Standard Grade II antimony in-warehouse Rotterdam prices at $7,700-8,100 per tonne on July 24, unchanged from the previous assessment, while trioxide grade antimony was assessed at $7,750-8,150 per tonne per tonne in-warehouse Rotterdam, also unchanged from the previous assessment.

“Prices are still firm with more enquiries, but concluded business is what is lacking in this market,” an antimony trader said.

“I am expecting prices to start moving up again in the first half of August,” the trader added.

“The Chinese have raised their prices. It’s difficult to find cheap offers,” another European trader said.

“All of a sudden everyone is excited about the market, but outside China sentiment is still weak and there is still no demand,” the second trader added.

Continuing rumours that China Minmetals is seeking 1,000 tonnes of cargo continues to lift the sentiment in the antimony market.

“Minmetals might be waiting for lower prices. I think what will happen is that they will buy little by little, they won’t purchase the whole cargo all at once,” a market participant in Europe noted.

In addition, rumours that investment companies in China were interested in antimony helped to boost the sentiment there, another market participant noted.

“What I’m worried about is that the recent uptick in prices might have been a dead cat bounce and prices will start falling again,” a third trader said. “I’m expecting demand to come back at the end of August and early September.”

Meanwhile in China, tight supply continues and prices rebounded further after they hit the production costs of most producers at about 52,000-53,000 yuan ($7,715-7,864) per tonne in early July.

Metal Bulletin assessed MMTA Standard Grade II China domestic antimony delivered duty paid prices at 53,500-54,500 yuan per tonne on Wednesday July 19, up 2.4% week-on-week. 

“Privately owned smelters, in ‘the world’s antimony capital’ – Lengshuijiang area – have halted production for four months, while more than half of smelters in Hechi and Guangxi province have been out of production for more than half a year, so supply in Chinese antimony market is still tight though demand calmed down during the summer weak season,” one consumer told Metal Bulletin. “The price recovery was expected.”

The same consumer signed an order for about 1,000 tonnes of antimony before one smelter in the Lengshuijiang area stopped production for an environmental inspection in early April, and then had to turn to other suppliers for raw material to maintain the operation.

“Although one or two smelters in the Lengshuijiang area have restarted production, the tight supply will not ease in the following months,” the same source added.

One producer in Yunnan province has reduced its production to about 100 tpm from 300 tpm in the previous year, owing to unavailability of antimony concentrates after its own antimony mine ceased operation early this year in order to curb soil erosion following the environmental checks.