GLOBAL ANTIMONY WRAP: Prices in China stable; European prices continue to consolidate

The consolidation in antimony prices continued in Europe last week with prices for standard grade II coming off slightly while prices in China remained stable.

On Friday May 19, Metal Bulletin assessed trioxide grade antimony in warehouse Rotterdam at $8,800-9,150 per tonne, unchanged from the previous assessment on Wednesday, while the standard grade II quotation edged 0.6% to $8,700-8,950 per tonne.

“We don’t see much business being done at the $9,000 level anymore,” a trader said.

“Prices are stagnating. No material is coming out of China, no plant is producing. Prices might soften further in the next two weeks but I expect another rally just before the summer as supply will keep tightening,” a second trader in Europe said.

“Inspectors in China have left a long list of requirements for the plants’ owners to fulfil before they can restart their production. It’s going to take a long time for the changes to be implemented,” a third trader said.

Meanwhile, prices in China were stable at 61,000-62,000 yuan ($8,866-9,011) per tonne.

Prices continue to be supported by tightening supply due to environmental inspections in the country.

Blast furnaces at smelters in the Lengshuijiang area in China’s Hunan province remain shut following the stringent environmental inspections which took place there in April and most suppliers in the area are refusing to make any offers or sell below 62,000 yuan per tonne.

The majority of antimony smelters in Hunan and Guanxgi provinces have been ordered to stop production and will not resume operation until they have installed equipment that complies with the government’s strict environmental standards, which typically takes at least six months.

Antimony metal from China’s Hunan and Guangxi provinces accounts for about 80-85% of the country’s total output.

Some producers told Metal Bulletin that they are required to overhaul their facilities completely according to the emission standards of China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection. “The discharge of SO2 is required at below 400mg per cubic meter for all antimony plants,” one producer told Metal Bulletin.

“That means that maybe we cannot resume production before July,” a producer in Lengshuijiang area said.

Many participants said that they do not expect the problem of tightening supply to ease in the short-term.

“The price fall in Europe was completely unexpected for us, but anyway, it will not affect the domestic market a lot [in view of the tight supply and massive shutdowns],” a second producer said.

However, demand from downstream industries is typically weak during May-June which could affect prices, another source said.

Metal Bulletin will next assess antimony prices on Wednesday May 24.