Tin like a coiled spring

The latest tin market comment by Stephen Briggs from BNP Paribas has predicted that demand growth for tin will remain muted in 2014-15 at three per cent per annum.

Briggs says that constraints on existing producers and a lack of new mines will severely limit growth in tin output.

The report goes on to say that BNP Paribas still expects deficits to drive tin above US$25,000 per tonne and reiterates its long tin versus short copper recommendation.

Read the full report here – Tin like a coiled spring

ITRI Conference Market Update May 2014

The International Tin Research Institute (ITRI) annual conference was held in Penang, Malaysia from 12-16 May. This year’s conference was well attended by all of the major producers, potential new entrants, smelters and traders along with some consumers.

Traders took the view that the market is balanced at present with little difficulty in sourcing metal. ITRI agreed with this view for the next few months, but felt there was an increasing likelihood that prices would break-out on the upside as the year progresses. In support of this view, ITRI cited the continuing discipline of the Indonesian Government in setting production targets in-line with their price expectations and the low level of stocks across all industry participants. As the table below indicates ITRI is forecasting a rising deficit in the tin market through 2014 which should support higher prices.

Souce: ITRI 2014
Source: ITRI 2014

Taking a five year view, ITRI sees Indonesian tin exports declining from the 85,000 tonnes expected in 2014 to below 60,000 tonnes. This view was also shared by the German Government agency responsible for monitoring strategic metal supply Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR). In their review of new supply, BGR indicated that Indonesia’s resources are sufficient for 10 years production at a declining rate, providing an opportunity for new entrants to fill the supply gap emerging towards the end of the decade.

The BGR presentation detailed the findings of a review of 157 tin resources many of which were visited by their research team. In October 2013, the BGR team visited Stellar’s Heemskirk project with an expert on tin geology.  The chart below summarises the findings of this study by placing those resources with the potential for mine development at current tin prices on a plot of grade versus tonnage of contained tin.

It is pleasing to see that Stellar’s Heemskirk tin project is well placed on the plot as one of the highest grade resources scheduled for underground mining.

Source: BGR 2014
Source: BGR 2014

Tin replaces lead in solar cells

Tin continues to flex its muscles as a safer alternative to lead. First there was the shift from lead-based solder to tin-based solder. Now tin has been flagged as the best substitute for lead in solar cell technology.

A new solar cell developed by two separate teams of researchers promises low-cost, enhanced efficiency and a smaller environmental footprint.

The new cell uses a perovskite structure composed of tin instead of lead as the light-absorbing material in a perovskite solar cell. A perovskite structure’s usefulness in solar cells was discovered in 2009 using lead as the primary structure, but researchers have now demonstrated successful perovskite solar cell technology using tin.

Tin is the ideal material because unlike lead, it is a low-toxicity metal and is not easily absorbed by the human body.

Tin perovskite structure offers the potential economic advantage of being cheap and easy to make. It can be simply integrated into a standard manufacturing process.

The tin solar cell currently has an efficiency of around 6 per cent. Efficiency of a solar cell is measured as a percentage of sunlight absorbed versus the amount converted into energy. Tin has lower efficiency than lead, which reaches 15 to 16 per cent. However, researchers are encouraged by the fact that in 2009, lead perovskite structures were only at 3.8 per cent and they expect that tin will eventually be able match that efficiency.

Lead researcher Mercouri G. Kanatzidis, an inorganic chemist with the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern, as reported in Nature Photonics, said “There is no reason this new material can’t reach an efficiency better than 15 percent,”

“Tin and lead are in the same group in the periodic table, so we expect similar results.”

If tin perovskites mimic the pattern set by lead, researchers will have brought a non-hazardous recipe of materials to a very promising technology.

The technology will still have to be demonstrated outside the laboratory and be proven to be affordable and durable at a commercial scale.

Source: Climate Spectator