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Economic geology and environmental characteristics of antimony deposits

July 1, 2021

Antimony is commonly listed as a critical mineral, particularly in the United States and European Union [1]. Its criticality, or supply risk, is derived from a combination of economic vulnerability, disruption potential of supply, and trade exposure [2].Disruption potential relates a country’s ability and willingness to supply a commodity. Commodities for which supply is concentrated in the fewest countries have the greatest potential for supply disruption, trade exposure, and economic vulnerability. In 2018, approximately 61% of the world production of antimony was mined from China, followed by Russia (20%) and Tajikistan (10%) [3] (Fig. 3.1). Several reviews of antimony as a critical mineral have been recently published [4, 5].

The uses of antimony can be divided into three main categories: metal products, non-metal uses, and flame retardants [5]. Most metallic antimony use is inlead-acid batteries. Antimony trioxide (Sb2O3) combined with halogenated com-pounds is used as a fire retardant in plastics, fabrics, and other applications. Other non-metallic uses include as a catalyst for plastics, and in the glass industry. Emerging uses include data storage and novel photovoltaic cells. Recycling of batteries represents an important reuse of antimony, but other uses of antimony do not lend themselves to recycling.

This chapter describes mineral deposit types that are primary sources of antimony, and environmental effects related to their mining. Antimony can be re-covered as either a primary commodity from some deposits or as a by product commodity from some gold or silver deposits. Environmental risks associated with antimony mining include those related to mining in general, such as the acid-generating potential of solid mine waste, and some issues specific to antimony, as described below.