Although critical to newly evolving and increasingly essential technologies, antimony (Sb), gallium (Ga), and germanium (Ge) are generally recovered as byproducts or ‘companion metals’ of other metal ores. The stage at which companion metals are extracted depends on metallurgical processes by which the host ore mineral is extracted and processed; many companion metals are recovered late during this processing. Therefore, the current and future supply of companion metals relies not only on production of major commodities, but also on the efficient recovery of these metals during processing that recovers the primary commodity. National geological surveys, particularly the USGS, publish annual estimates of global reserves for a variety of primary metals, but generally not for companion metals. This study provides estimates for the geogenic stocks (in waste rock piles, tailings, smelting, and refining) of Ga, Ge, and Sb as companion metals. These elements are mined in Australia but may be recovered outside of Australia, but their life cycles have not yet been well understood. Based on the methodology adapted, this paper estimates a minimum of 970–1230 kt of Ga, 30–10,000 kt of Ge and 70–1000 kt of Sb in current Australian lead-zinc-silver, gold, copper, iron ore, coal, bauxite, and bauxite residue (red mud) resources. The large range of estimated stocks stems from the variable range of ore grades reported by companies and the considerable uncertainty that exists among the grade estimates presented. However, these estimates are reflective of best practice in mineral resource estimation of Ga, Ge, and Sb, and provide a basis for determining similar recoverable resource estimates of other companion metals, such as indium, rhenium, and selenium, all of which are of increasing importance in modern-day life.
- Companion metals (or byproducts)
- Economic Demonstrated Resources (EDRs)