Will antimony become “the next rare earth”? RARE³ KU Leuven publishes milestone paper on the recycling of antimony

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The RARE³ KU Leuven team has produced a milestone review paper on the recycling of antimony from diverse feedstocks. The paper can be downloaded through the website of the Journal of Sustainable Metallurgy (open access).

Full reference of the paper. David Dupont, Sander Arnout, Peter Tom Jones, Koen Binnemans, Antimony Recovery from End-of-Life Products and Industrial Process Residues: A Critical Review, Journal of Sustainable Metallurgy, 2016 [DOI 10.1007/s40831-016-0043-y]. Download here.

Abstract. Antimony has become an increasingly critical element in recent years, due to a surge in industrial demand and the Chinese domination of primary production. Antimony is produced from stibnite ore (Sb2O3) which is processed into antimony metal and antimony oxide (Sb2O3). The industrial importance of antimony is mainly derived from its use as flame retardant in plastics, coatings, and electronics, but also as decolourizing agent in glass, alloys in lead-acid batteries, and catalysts for the production of PET polymers. In 2014, the European Commission highlighted antimony in its critical raw materials report, as the element with the largest expected supply–demand gap over the period 2015–2020. This has sparked efforts to find secondary sources of antimony either through the recycling of end-of-life products or by recovering antimony from industrial process residues. Valuable residues are obtained by processing of gold, copper, and lead ores with high contents of antimony. Most of these residues are currently discarded or stockpiled, causing environmental concerns. There is a clear need to move to a more circular economy, where waste is considered as a resource and zero-waste valorization schemes become the norm, especially for rare elements such as antimony. This paper gives a critical overview of the existing attempts to recover antimony from secondary sources. The paper also discusses the possibility of waste valorization schemes to guarantee a more sustainable life cycle for antimony.