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ANTIMONY

  • Antimony
  • Mines Producing Antimony

Antimony can most accurately be described as being a semi-metallic chemical element that is able to exist in two forms; (1) a non-metallic form that is essentially a grey coloured powder and (2) a metallic form that is quite brittle, hard and of a bright silvery colour. It is prized as a poor conductor of both electricity and heat. It is quite stable in dry conditions and is not effected by alkalis or dilute acids. Antimony and some of its alloys expand when cooled.


Antimony is Important to the World Economy
The ancient world was aware of antimony, as it is sometimes appears free in nature, but it is most likely to be found within an ore body of either valentinite or stibnite. The first person known to have studied antimony in a scientific manner was a French chemist Nicolas Lemery who published his discoveries in 1707. Antimony has become an important metal throughout the world because of its many applications with 50,000 tonnes being produced a year.


Australia is a Small Producer of Antimony
There are known reserves of antimony totalling five million tonnes around the world with most of the worlds production coming from China, Bolivia and South Africa. An elemental antimony deposit exists in Finland. Australia is a small producer but there are deposits containing antimony such as at the Costerfield Mine in Victoria, the Wattle Creek deposit near Dorrigo and the Hillgrove Mine near Armidale in New South Wales.


Antimony has Many Uses
Pure antimony is used in many semi-conductor devices such as infrared detectors and diodes. It can also be alloyed with lead to enhance its durability. Other antimony alloys are used in cable sheathing, type metal, low friction metals and batteries. Compounds containing antimony are useful for flame proofing, pottery, the making of glass, ceramic enamels and paints etc. The ancient Egyptions used it for a black eye make-up when in the form of stibnite.


The Health Effects of Antimony
Antimony, however, can be injurious to the health of animals, including people, especially if it is inhaled in the form of a dust. It can also enter the body through drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food. Some animals have been effected through skin contact with soil or water containing antimony. The effect it has with breathing is mainly caused by it's ability to bond with hydrogen when in a gaseous phase. A person's main health concern is when exposed to antimony in high concentrations over a long period of time as it can cause irritation of the lungs, skin and eyes. If the exposure continues it is able to cause stomach ulcers, severe vomiting and diarrhoea as well as heart and lung problems.


Naturally Occurring Small Amounts of Antimony have no ill Effects on Humans

Antimony found naturally in soils, water and air is usually in such small amounts that no ill effect will be experienced but it is able to pollute soils, particularly when it gets into ground water where it is able to travel great distances where it eventually accumulates and becomes surface water.
 

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