High gold price unlikely to affect antimony prices, but long-term supply tightness is a possibility

Current high gold prices are unlikely to have any short-term impact on prices or supplies of antimony, but supplies of antimony may tighten in the longer term, sources told Fastmarkets

The gold price hit an all-time high on the Comex exchange (a division of the New York Mercantile Exchange) on March 7, surpassing $2,150 per ounce.

And on Wednesday, March 20, the Comex gold one-month average price was still in high ground at $2,114.97 per ounce.

“[The high gold price] should not have much impact on antimony in the short term because the miners should have already made their production plans for the year, so [they are] unlikely to change,” one source told Fastmarkets.

Fastmarkets has been providing reliable price discovery and benchmarks since 1865, our metals and mining price data covers industrial minerals, minor metals, base metals, battery raw materials, steel, scrap and more. Learn more about Fastmarkets metals price data today.

In the long term, however, the source said that miners with gold and gold-antimony mines were more likely to focus on the non-antimony mines when gold prices were high. But, were likely to be producing at their gold-antimony mines when gold prices dropped, when they could make a profit from selling the byproduct.

So supplies of antimony, which can be a byproduct in gold-antimony mines, could become tighter if gold prices stay high for long time, the source added.

And that view was echoed by others.

“If you look into the [profit and loss] impact that antimony has on a gold mining companies, I’d argue that it is rather too small, so any antimony byproducts will remain either in the ground or dumped at the mine to await further processing,” a second source told Fastmarkets. 

“Why bother with antimony when gold is more profitable,” the source added.

A third source said there would be little short-term impact on antimony.

“In the long-term [Russian gold-antimony producer] Polyus will probably end up focusing more on its gold concentrates than its gold-antimony concentrates. So [there will be] even less chance of new supplies coming out of Russia,” the source said.

Polyus’ Olimpiada gold mine in the Krasnoyarsk region of Eastern Siberia is one of the top-five gold mines in the world.

“Other projects will take a long time to start,” the third source added. “There will be nothing new in Australia for another two years and I don’t think there will be any new projects in China. So that just [leaves] Tajikistan.”

Talco Gold gold processing plant

Talco Gold, a joint venture between the Tursunzoda-based Tajik Aluminium Co (Talco) and China’s Tibet Huayu Mining, is the newcomer in Tajikistan, with an estimated annual output of up to 2.2 tonnes of gold and 21,000 tonnes of antimony annually.

The company opened its gold processing plant in April 2022, but has not started antimony production as yet, Fastmarkets understands. The project was supposed to launch in 2019 but was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“[Talco Gold will see] more delays,” the third source said.

A fourth source, involved in the antimony business for the past 25 years, said the link to gold prices had clearly not been established.

“There’s no real dependence of antimony prices on gold prices in the context of producers of gold-antimony concentrates,” the source said.

“There is no longer a single, large, gold-antimony project that could be launched in the near future and begin to cheaply sell antimony in complex concentrate [form],” the source added, “but gold prices have recently had no observable impact on antimony production by gold-antimony miners.”

Antimony production outside of China

Back in January 2019, market participants were wondering if the antimony projects in Russia and Oman could be the real source of market disruption because they would increase the volume of material produced outside China.

And market participants had sought to find a connection between gold and antimony since the start of production of high-grade gold-antimony complex concentrate from Polyus more than five years ago, according to the source. In addition, this idea was influenced by the expected start of production at the Konchoch deposit in Tajikistan, which was being built by Talco.

But that speculation was all probably due to Polyus’ sharp increase in antimony concentrate supplies at that time, which led to a fall in antimony prices, according to the fourth source.

In April 2019, China imported 7,938 tonnes of antimony ore and concentrate, marking year-on-year increase of 96% and a month-on-month increase of 134%, according to official, but unconfirmed, data seen by Fastmarkets.

And Russia was the top supplier of antimony to China that month, shipping 3,416 tonnes of ore and concentrate combined and accounting for 43% of total Chinese imports of the material – a huge amount compared with the 91 tonnes the country shipped to China in March 2019.

“Polyus has continued to supply antimony concentrate since then, but the price has already leveled off and does not affect the [antimony] market,” the fourth source said.

In its full-year report for 2023, which was published this February, Polyus announced that total gold output in 2023 increased by 14% year on year to 2.9 million ounces, while its output of antimony in flotation concentrate amounted to 27,075 tonnes, up from 4,391 tonnes in 2022.

But the company anticipates a decrease in total gold production in 2024 and set the guidance range of 2.7-2.8 million ounces, due to the lower-grade ore being processed at its Olimpiada mine.

“Polyus expects a reduction in the share of lower-cost Olimpiada [material] in the company’s total gold production… due to a planned decline in the grade of the ore being mined. The latter is attributable to the sequence of mining calendars at Olimpiada. The company is currently downscaling activities under the fourth stage of the Vostochny pit, which is expected to result in lower mining volumes of high-grade ore and the completion of mining antimony-containing material,” the company said.

Its total gold sales volumes in 2023 increased to 2.9 million ounces compared with 2.4 million ounces in 2022, driven by higher production volumes at Olimpiada and Blagodatnoye.

Elsewhere, Mandalay Resources, a Canadian mining company that produces gold, silver and antimony, has seen its antimony output decline in the past two years and the company plans to further reduce its antimony production in 2024, targeting an estimated output of 1,100-1,500 tonnes, according to its 2023 report, published in January.

Mandalay Resources produced 1,860 tonnes of antimony last year at its Costerfield mine in Australia, down from 2,292 tonnes in 2022 and 3,380 tonnes in 2021.

The company is, however, increasing its gold production – up slightly from 89,809 gold equivalent ounces in 2023, to 90,000-100,000 gold equivalent ounces planed for 2024.

Antimony is used in various applications, with one of its primary uses being in the form of antimony trioxide as a flame retardant in plastics, textiles and other products. But while the flame-retardant sector currently accounts for around half of antimony’s end uses, photovoltaics are expected to become the major downstream market for the metal in the coming years.

What to read next
The use of antimony in photovoltaics is expected to surpass its flame-retardant usage to become the major downstream use for the metal and will change the supply-demand balance in the antimony industry
Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the unfolding Western sanctions are expected to worsen the situation for antimony concentrate supplies, adding extra pressure to an already tight market for the metal and its derivative trioxide