It is used, among other things, for the production of ammunition, and the United States really needs it.
Why do Tajik officials hide information about a completely harmless, at first glance, semi-metal – antimony?
First in the world?
President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon in his last message instructed the government to pay special attention to the extraction and processing of non-ferrous metals, including antimony, lithium, tungsten, nickel and other metals.
He noted the need to develop and implement a separate program for the development and processing of metals to final products within the country. He stressed that Tajikistan ranks first in the world in terms of antimony reserves.
“Today we need to make the development and bringing antimony to the final product the main task,” said Emomali Rahmon.
To obtain detailed information on stocks, production, production and export of antimony, Asia-Plus addressed inquiries to the Ministry of Industry, the Main Department of Geology and the Agency for Statistics.
The statistic agency’s written response advises, in one sentence, to contact the “relevant sectoral bodies” in order to obtain “primary, specific and detailed information.”
Industry bodies did not respond to “Asia-Plus” for a month, violating the norms of several legislative acts at once, up to the Constitution of the country. Among other things, we asked about the reliability of information on antimony reserves provided to the president. The fact is that it was previously reported that Tajikistan is at best in third place in terms of these reserves.
And just yesterday, on February 1, at the final press conference of the Main Department of Geology of the Republic of Tatarstan, its head, Ilkhomjon Oymuhammadzoda, said that China ranks first in antimony reserves in the world, and Tajikistan now ranks second and first among the CIS countries.
He said that there are 11 antimony deposits in the republic, 9 of which are located in the Zarafshan and Gissar valleys.
At the same time, he did not answer the question of what volumes of antimony reserves Tajikistan has.
So how much antimony do we have?
The portal of the Geological Survey (geoportal-tj.org) states that the Zeravshan-Hissar mercury-antimony belt has large reserves of antimony. The richest antimony ores were found in the Dzhizhikrut deposit (in the Aini region), containing more than 15% of this semimetal. Since the late 1940s, the Anzob mining and processing plant (today the Tajik-American joint venture Anzob) has been operating on the basis of these reserves with a design capacity of 700,000 tons per year.
Concentrates of mercury-antimony ores of Tajikistan are processed in other countries – previously, mainly in Kyrgyzstan, and after the closure of the border with this neighbor at the end of April 2021 – in China.
“The mineral resource base of antimony in the republic can be expanded many times over by expanding exploration work at deposits of other ore regions where promising areas have been identified,” Tajik geologists conclude.
According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), Tajikistan has been the world’s third largest producer of antimony for several years. In 2019, the republic produced 16 thousand tons of this semimetal. Only Russia (30 thousand tons) and China (100 thousand tons) produced more. At the same time, the production of antimony in Russia has remained at the same level in recent years, while in Tajikistan it is growing.
The production of this semimetal in Tajikistan in 2019 compared to 2010 increased by almost 3 times, as did the share of the republic in global production.
At the core of an American bullet
The American edition of Defense News last summer, citing the Committee on Armed Services of the House of Representatives, wrote that the United States is looking for alternative sources of antimony for the production of ammunition, since its own stocks will last only until 2025.
The publication noted that the United States receives antimony mainly from China, in smaller volumes from Russia, “and Tajikistan is strengthening its position in the global market as the third largest supplier of antimony in the world.”
“The Committee is concerned about the recent geopolitical dynamics with Russia and China and how this could accelerate supply chain disruptions, especially for antimony,” the publication said.
The article also noted that Pentagon officials must submit a forecast for the next five years regarding current and future supply chain vulnerabilities by October of this year.
The authors of the publication stressed that antimony is critical to the US defense industry. It is used in the cores of bullets, cartridges, projectiles, and even in nuclear weapons, as well as for the production of other military equipment, such as night vision devices.
During World War II, the Japanese were said to have blocked Chinese shipments of antimony to the United States. Then the Americans began to mine it at a mine in Idaho, but it was completely depleted by 1997. Small reserves of other mines could run out by 2025.
Experts say that the combination of antimony and lead increases the hardness and mechanical strength of the latter.
Where else is it applied?
More than half of the antimony mined today is used in the production of chemical additives that provide protection against fire (flame retardants). They are added to construction wood, plastics, textiles, rubber, glass, adhesives, paints, aircraft parts, car covers, clothing, and even toys.
Also, antimony is used in the semiconductor industry in the production of diodes, infrared detectors.
The scope of antimony includes:
- antifriction alloys;
- printing alloys;
- small arms and tracer bullets;
- cable sheaths;
- drugs, antiprotozoal drugs.
A bit of history
Antimony refers to metalloids or semimetals – similar to metal, but very fragile and easily crushed.
The oldest antimony artifact (part of a vase) dates back to 3000 BC. e. and was found in what is now Iraq. At the same time, the secret of how the ancient masters managed to give malleability to such a fragile material has not been revealed so far.
Women in ancient Egypt and the Middle East used antimony sulfide as a black dye for their eyes and eyebrows. The very word “antimony” in translation from the Persian language means “make-up” or “ointment”.
In the mountainous regions of Tajikistan, women paint their eyes and eyebrows, as well as their newborn children, with antimony sulfide. And in Afghanistan, men also wear makeup.
Medieval alchemists worked with antimony in two directions: the transformation of lead, iron and other metals into gold; creation of a means of ensuring immortality.
In Europe, antimony was considered an excellent laxative. In general, medicines based on it were used extremely widely at one time. It is believed that their abuse was one of the reasons for the early death of Mozart.
Source: Asia Plus