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Information at a Glance

General
  • Antimony in its elemental form is a silvery white, brittle, fusible, crystalline solid that exhibits poor electrical and heat conductivity properties and vaporizes at low temperatures. A metalloid, antimony resembles a metal in its appearance and in many of its physical properties, but does not chemically react as a metal.
  • At least six principal methods are or have been used to extract antimony from its ores. The method used depends on whether the ore is a sulfide, an oxide, or a complex ore, and on the grade, which ranges widely from about 1.5 percent to more than 60 percent antimony by weight.

Process

  • The intermediate grades of antimony ore of all kinds are smelted in a blast furnace. This is the most important process for the extraction of antimony from its ores. The furnace feed can consist of briquette fines or flue dust, mattes, mixed ores, oxides, sulfides, and residues and slag's,. The large amount of slag formed is beneficial in reducing volatilization losses of the metal. The product is impure antimony metal.
  • In this process, the higher-grade sulfide ores are heated in reverberate furnaces or crucible furnaces in a reducing atmosphere at from 550 to 600 o C, temperatures below the volatilization temperature of the stibnite but above its melting point. The molten sulfide trickles down through the ore mass and is collected at a lower level of the furnace. The solidified sulfide, which is more than 70 percent antimony, is usable for some purposes as is, or it may be converted to metal or oxide.

Production

  • Production of antimony trioxide is forecast to continue to grow in response to rising demand for flame retardants in various products and for catalysts in PET production, although not as quickly as the end-use products because of possible inroads by competitive formulations and reductions in unit requirements.
  • Antimony has been widely used as a catalyst in the production of PET plastic for nearly thirty years. Consumers can rest assured that Antimony and its application for PET food and beverage containers are well tested and regulated for safety.
  • Primary antimony accounts for only about one-fifth of the antimony used in batteries but for larger proportions in most other metallic products and usually accounts for all the antimony used in  nonmetallic products.

Market

  • Antimony sulfide ore is marketed in at least three forms for which prices are published— lump sulfide ore (minimum 60 percent contained antimony), clean sulfide concentrate (minimum 60 percent contained antimony), and Chinese concentrate (minimum 60 percent antimony, maximum 30 parts per million (ppm) mercury, and typically 60 ppm selenium).
  • Antimony is used in the manufacturing of products such as textiles and plastics for its flame retardant properties, as a catalyst, a pigment, to improve the properties of friction materials, and as a de-foaming agent in the production of glass. With the development new types of electronic power devices, the demand has increased for large diameter heavily antimony doped silicon.
  • Flame retardants account for about 70% of primary antimony demand and 90% of the demand for antimony trioxide. More stringent flammability standards and safety legislation, together with increased demand for plastics and IT-related products, will result in higher demand for flame retardants.

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