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BISMUTH ADVOCATE NEWS

Outlook-Sustainability-Prices Issue No. 30 March – June 2009

The most important news is a drop or delay in bismuth news and statistics availability.  The Mining Annual Review has dropped its Bismuth article.  The 2007 Bismuth Minerals Yearbook chapter has already been delayed almost six months.  Under active consideration is having the Bismuth Advocate News partly fill the gap by putting a bismuth data blog up; if so, the links will be shown on the "Early Bird" and the Customer-Input price blog. 

Longer-term Outlook: The most recent outlooks will be found on the "Early Bird".  The price increase shown in the first half of 2007, has long-term implications since it continued and did not drop back into its former price range.  In the presence of more political stability, the higher price could enable the Tasna Mine in Bolivia, the world's only mine with bismuth as its principal product, to operate continuously with no closures and perhaps to expand production.  With a better world investment climate and capital availability, it could enable several multi-metal mine prospects to come onstream, one, the NICO deposit (cobalt-gold-bismuth) in Canada, whose owner, Fortune Minerals Ltd., announced successful completion of pilot plant hydrometallurgical processing in February 2009, will take awhile to come onstream.  The other, the Nui Phao project (fluorspar-tungsten-bismuth) in Viet Nam will not start mining until 2010, two years behind schedule, in the face of a vastly-increased mineral export tax of 20% and a royalty tax of 5%-10%, and Tiburon Minerals selling out all its share.  If mine sources do not respond to the elevated price level (they didn't for indium), the gap is likely to be filled by recycling, more efficient use, and substitution by other materials.  However, since 2008 U.S. imports of bismuth metal by quantity were only 17% of 2007 imports, this huge drop in demand, if it continues, could eliminate the gap.

Several newer end-uses have the size and potential growth to put intense and unrelenting pressure on demand, sustainability allowing; the use in lead-free solders and the use in galvanizing as a lead replacement.  The most accurate current bismuth end-use breakout shows 35% in galvanizing and metallurgical additives, 35% in solders, fusible alloys, and ammunition, and the balance in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, pigments, and catalysts.

Longer-term Sustainability: Shorter term sustainability will be found on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bismuth.  The longer-term sustainability of this ecologically-friendly metal differs significantly from the short-term assessment because of the future of the lead storage battery: if an alternative battery replaces the lead storage battery, 80%-90% of the world market for lead will disappear, impacting its byproduct bismuth.  An alternative battery type (perhaps the Li-on battery) would probably be adaptable to gasoline-powered vehicles.

If a much smaller world market for lead can be totally supplied by recycling, the market for smelting lead ores becomes almost totally dependent on recovering profitably the other metals in the ore: bismuth, silver, zinc, and antimony in particular.  This would lead to many less smelters of lead ore and less bismuth recovered, unless there was enough of the non-lead metals, especially silver, to make recovery profitable without selling the lead.  This would make bismuth much more dependent on its own recycling.  As the Bismuth wiki shows, many of the bismuth uses scatter the bismuth so that recycling could not be done economically.  Bismuth prices would probably spiral upward as bismuth supply becomes more dependent on recovery from tungsten and tin ores, or recycling; this would be somewhat counterbalanced by substitution for bismuth or greater efficiency of bismuth use.

Statistical Parameters: (a) The New York Dealer Price IN POUNDS for bismuth metal has tended to modestly fluctuate except for the mid2007 huge uptick: the price was $3.30-$3.50 per lb in early March 2005, $3.45-$3.65 in July, $4.20-$4.60 per lb in September, and $4.50-$4.80 in late December 2005.  The price was $4.40-$4.60 per lb in midMay 2006, then little variance until it was $4.50-$4.75 in midSeptember 2006.  Then the price was $6.00-$6.50 per lb in midNovember 2006, $7.30-$7.80 at Christmas 2006, $9.25-$9.75 per lb in early March 2007, $10.50-$11.00 in late March 2007, $13.00-$14.50 in midApril, $16.50-$17.50 per lb in midMay, $18.00-$19.00 per lb ($39.60-$41.80 per kg) in midJune 2007, $17.00-$18.00 per lb in midJuly, $15.50-$16.50 in late August-September, $14.50-$15.50 in mid October, and $13.50-$15.00 per pound in midNovember 2007.  The price then moved down to $11.50-$13.50 in midFebruary 2008, recovered a little to $14.60-$16.00 per lb. in late April 2008, then down through $13.00-$14.00 in late June 2008 to $10.00-$11.00 per lb. in early August 2008, $8.75-$10.00 in midNovember 2008, and $7.50-$8.50 per pound in late January 2009.

(b) The customer-input price IN KILOGRAMS for bismuth metal was $37.51 per kg in 2Q 2007, $23.67 per kg in 3Q 2007, $45.34 per kg ($20.61 per lb.) in 4Q 2007, $38.27 per kg in 1Q 2008, $41.71 per kg in 2Q 2008, $40.71 in 3Q 2008, and $29.56 per kg in 4Q 2008.

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