Bismuth has been gaining popularity due to its versatility, ecological friendliness, a remarkable degree of non-toxicity for heavy metal, noncarcinogenic character, and other useful properties. It should be also stated that, despite non-toxicity and small amounts in the environment (relative to other heavy metals), bismuth accumulation in wastewaters is a matter of concern, and its prevention should be achieved thus enabling the reuse of a valuable metal resource.
Unsurprisingly, bismuth price doubled from USD 5/kg in the early 1990s to the current price range of USD 10-12/kg, paralleled by the rise in bismuth production. Of course, the current price varies within a rather wide margin. It is subject to bismuth supply (which itself depends from various factors and mostly relies on the extraction during the process of electrolytic refinement of lead), demand fluctuations, health and environmental regulations (esp. in the area of lead substitution, where, for instance, bismuth vanadate pigments actively substitute lead chromate pigments), etc. For instance, in late 2018 and in Q1 2019, the European bismuth price fell to about USD 9 per kg. The European bismuth prices in Q3 2019 are moving south, backed by ample supply.
The current prices for bismuth in China, which remains the main bismuth manufacturer, are also demonstrating a downward trend, which is supported by the weak domestic demand.
Bismuth: structure of the global production by country (combined mine and refinery output)
The ongoing China-US trade conflict might have also taken its toll as bismuth is included in the list of tariffed items. China exports to the US about 1,000-1,300 tonnes of bismuth, which looks rather modest in value terms. In general, China’s bismuth export varies significantly either. In 2016, it hit nearly 6,100 tonnes, but in 2018 fell to just 4,000 tonnes. However, despite large variability of the bismuth market, its overall dynamics remain largely positive, buoyed by healthy consumption prospects, steady supply and innate features of this commodity.
More information on the global bismuth market can be found in the comprehensive research report “Bismuth: 2019 World Market Review and Forecast to 2028”.