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BISMUTH ADVOCATE NEWS

Outlook-Sustainability-Prices Issue No. 33 April – August 2010

Longer-term Outlook: Recent outlooks will be found on the "Early Bird", or the most recent on the Basics Mines Update blog.  The price increase shown in the first half of 2007, should have long-term implications since it continued and did not drop back into its former price range.  In spite of the higher prices the lack of political stability has not enabled the Tasna Mine in Bolivia, the world's only mine with bismuth as its principal product, to operate at all, let alone to expand production.  The new Hitachi Recycling Complex of Nippon Mining & Metals Co. was scheduled to be completed in March 2009 with a capacity of 200 tonnes of bismuth, 150 tonnes of antimony, 500 tonnes of tin, plus a few other metals.  Six Hunan bismuth producers accounting for 30% of China's refined bismuth metal production formed a consortium named the Hunan Bismuth Industry Co. "to cushion speculation and improve China's stature in the world bismuth market".  Since mine sources have not responded 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.  The most recent statistics for U.S. imports, U.S. bismuth consumption by end-use, and world bismuth demand can be found on the Basics Mines Update blog, see http://basicsmines-update.blogspot.com

Several newer end-uses have the size and potential growth, after recovery from the Great Recession, to put strong pressure on demand, sustainability allowing; the use in lead-free solders and the use in galvanizing as a lead replacement.  The most accurate current U.S. bismuth end-use breakout shows 55% in chemicals: pharmaceuticals (the majority), cosmetics, and catalysts, 45% in metallurgical additives: foundries (the majority, prevents graphite formation), free-machining additives, and galvanizing, and 10% in solders, fusible alloys, and ammunition.

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 or electricity storage device replaces the lead storage battery, 80%-90% of the 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, beginning the current period of listless and almost random variation in prices always holding under $10 per pound; it hit a high of $9.25 per pound in October 2009 and a low of $6.00 per lb. in late August 2009, and was $8.00 to $8.25 per pound in March 2010.

(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.  This price was $28.97 per kg in 1Q 2009, $27.33 per kg in 2Q 2009, $23.77 per kg in 3Q 2009, and $27.83 in 4Q 2009.

Welcome to Bismuth Advocate News (BAN). BAN has again been reorganized and will include long-term sustainability and feature two price series.  Earlier New York dealer prices for bismuth can be found on BAN Issue 29, and current customer-input prices can be found on customer-inputprices.blogspot.com by month.The short to midterm outlook for bismuth will appear only on the “Early Bird” issues, twice each year.  The most recent detailed comprehensive reference to the production, sources, markets and end uses of bismuth is the Mining Journal-Financial Times Executive Commodity Report on Bismuth written by BAN's editor and publisher, Harold A. Taylor, Jr.

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