Antimony is technically classified as a metalloid, or semi-metal, which means it has both some properties of metals and some non-metals.
In its pure metallic form, antimony is hard and brittle. Its silver appearance is similar to zinc, but this quickly tarnishes to gray in air, forming a layer of antimony trioxide on the metal surface.
Antimony has very low thermal and electrical conductivity. Antimony metal swells as it solidifies, making it useful as an alloying material in precision alloy castings.
While antimony metal is relatively stable and safe, compounds of this element are considered toxic.
Unlike many minor metals, antimony has been used by humans for thousands of years.
The Egyptians used forms of antimony in cosmetics and medicines about 5000 years ago. Ancient Greek physicians prescribed antimony powder for the treatment of skin disorders.
According to some of the first metallurgical books published in Europe, the crude method for separating antimony metal was known to Italian chemists more than 600 years ago.
One of the earliest metal uses of antimony came in the mid-15th century when it was added as a hardening agent in the type of metal printing used by Johannes Gutenberg’s first printing press.
Antimony is usually extracted from stibnite sulfide ores, but can also be produced from a number of oxide and sulfide ores, including jamesonite and valentinite.
According to US Geological Survey (USGS) statistics, China currently accounts for nearly 90 percent of global antimony production. In 2011, an estimated 169,000 tons of antimony were mined worldwide.
Major Chinese manufacturers include Hsikwangshan Twinkling Star Co., Liuzhou China Tin Group and Hunan Chenzhou Mining. Many large antimony mines outside of China are also owned by Chinese companies, including Beaver Mine Brook in Newfoundland, Canada (Hunan Nonferrous Metals) and Murchison incorporated in South Africa (Metorex, a subsidiary. of Jinchuan Group).
Only a few antimony is reused like the Lead Antimony component, which is extracted from the lead battery and the whole process is purified at the secondary lead smelter and reused in the lead acid battery.