Mar 11 2009
Metorex in talks with two buyers for troubled antimony mine
Metorex is negotiating with two suitors interested in buying its troubled Consolidated Murchison antimony mine in South Africa, which could be mothballed following the default of its 100% offtake partner, managing director Charles Needham told MetalBulletin.com.
The company that has the 100% offtake from the mine (one of the largest sources of antimony outside of China) and which defaulted in November, is Chemtura Corp, a US chemicals company, MetalBulletin.com understands.
Needham described the company as a major North American chemicals company but declined to name it.
Chemtura, which was formed in 2005 following the merger of Crompton Corp and Great Lakes Chemical Corp, uses antimony in its plastic additives, including flame retardants, as well as polymers.
Antimony concentrate is converted into crude antimony trioxide at the mine which is located in the Murchison Greenstone belt near Gravelotte in the Northern Province of South Africa.
“We have one offtaker for our antimony production,” Needham said. “They’re in a situation that they’re destocking and as a result they’re not at this point in time in a position to receive antimony trioxide from us.”
The troubled miner will now cut output at the mine, which produced 150,371 metric tonne units (mtu) of antimony in the six months to December, by 50% and reduce its workforce while it negotiates with possible buyers and tries to resolve the issue over the default.
It is still possible that the offtake agreement will resume. Discussions are continuing.
“From their perspective, they [the offtake partner] are reviewing their position to establish whether it’s a temporary or permanent situation,” Needham said. “There’s no indication when or if supplies will continue.”
Market participants lamented the possible mothballing of one of the few antimony producers outside of China. China dominates supplies and has the world’s largest antimony reserves. The other big producing countries are Russia and Australia.