National Minerals Information Center

Bismuth Statistics and Information

Close up of Bismuthinite

Primary Commodity: Bismuth

Primary Commodity Uses: Bismuth is the heaviest of the heavy metals and the only non-toxic one at that. As such, it’s seen a lot of use in replacements for lead, as well as in medications and atomic research.

(Credit: Scott Horvath, USGS. Public domain.)

Bismuth is mainly a byproduct of lead ore processing.  It has a metallic luster and is silver-white with an iridescent tarnish.  Among the heavy metals, it is the heaviest and the only non-toxic.  Bismuth has been used in solders, a variety of other alloys, metallurgical additives, and medications and in atomic research.  In the early 1990s, research began on the evaluation of bismuth as a nontoxic replacement for lead in such uses as ceramic glazes, fishing sinkers, food processing equipment, free-machining brasses for plumbing applications, lubricating greases, and shot for waterfowl hunting.  Since 1997, the United States has been completely dependent on imports for its supply of primary bismuth. 

 

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Robert M Callaghan

State Mineral Specialist
National Minerals Information Center
Phone: 703-648-7709