Future Tin Supply: Opportunities & Challenges

Presentation given at the ITA International Tin Conference, Penang, Malaysia, May 2024

MinEx Consulting is currently working on a project for the International Tin Association (ITA) to update their cost models for assessing new tin projects. This presentation provides an overview of the project coverage and methodology. In addition it includes a forward-looking assessment of the strategic challenges & opportunities facing the tin industry in general.

The ITA is concerned about whether there are enough advanced tin projects in the pipeline to meet the expected rapid growth in metal demand brought about by the World’s need to transition to a low carbon future. Related to this what will be the trigger-price required to get these projects into development.

Key observations are:

  • Tin is a critical metal for meeting future energy needs of the World. In detail, integrated circuits, electric vehicles and solar panels all require tin solder for their power connections.
  • Over the last 8 decades Asia has been the main supplier of the World’s tin – firstly Malaysia, then Indonesia, China and (most recently) Myanmar.
  • Current metal demand is around 320 kt Sn. It is projected that at least 50 kt of new capacity has to come online by 2030 to meet future needs.
  • Securing sustainable new tin supplies is a challenge
  • MinEx has identified 367 deposits around the World that contain a Resource >3 kt Sn. Many of these have been mined-out. Only 26 of these are currently at the pre-feas/feasibility study stage, with a further 87 at the exploration stage.
  • To help assess the viability of these new projects MinEx is updating ITA’s mine cost model with the cost and production information. This is based on compiling benchmarking data from 24 available projects.
  • One complication is that many of these projects contain significant amounts of by- and co-products, which are a source of additional revenue.
  • Secondly, a number of the projects are in challenging jurisdictions. Consequently the cost model will include an assessment of the investment risk on their timing and viability.
  • The ITA will release the results of this study to its members later this year

With regard to future of tin mine supply , some initial thoughts are:

  • Initial results from MinEx’s cost modelling suggests that there are enough projects to meet demand out to 2030. However the trigger price required is yet to be determined.
  • Many of the new projects are located in Australia, Africa and Europe. The apparent lack of new projects in Asia and South America (which are the two current main producing regions) may simply be due to lack of reporting by the project owners – many of which are private companies or informal producers. This uncertainty needs to be resolved.
  • Due to past low prices over the last forty years the industry has done very little to very little work exploring for new deposits. Much more effort is required in this area. Interesting opportunities exist in China, Myanmar and the Andes.
  • The opportunity also exists to reopen old mines and/or re-treat old tailings dams.
  • Because of EGS and strategic considerations Governments are getting much more involved in the development of new mines.
  • The changing geopolitical situation means that some producer countries may benefit from their alliances with consumer countries. Non-aligned countries face an interesting balance between being “everyone’s friend” or “everyone’s enemy”.

In short, tin is going to play an increasingly important role in meeting the World ‘s energy needs.