Tuesday, 22 March 2016
Latest official customs statistics released by China yesterday showed that the country’s tin ore and concentrate imports from Myanmar totalled just 8,641 tonnes (gross weight) in February 2016, down 88% from 72,436 tonnes in January and down 53.0% year-on-year.
The February figure represents the lowest monthly total since September 2014. It is understood that the Chinese Spring Festival holiday was the main reason for the drop. However, the record high exports reported from Myanmar in January are believed to have almost entirely depleted warehouse stocks of tin ore and concentrate in the border port, which will have also contributed to the far lower levels of activity and exports in February.
ITRI View: A return to higher levels of production and transportation of tin ore has been seen in early March and it is expected that reported exports will rise to more normal levels. Allowing for the fact that production is now at a seasonal peak, the gross weight of shipments in March and April are likely to be in the order of 40,000 tonnes, or some 5,000 tpm contained tin. Volumes will then start to drop with the onset of the wet season.
ITRI’s markets manager Peter Kettle has addressed a special session of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention in Toronto, saying that ITRI sees the storage, generation and conservation of energy as key drivers for new applications for the metal over the next 3 to 30 years.
While the current largest market for tin is lead-free solders, looking ahead it appears likely that the main growth area will be in energy-related applications. In the short term, the biggest growth has been in lead-acid batteries with global tin use in this application in 2014 estimated at some 26,000 tonnes, a little over 7% of total refined tin consumption. Despite the advent of competitive products, the lead-acid battery is still the cheapest and best way to store energy in massively growing markets such as electric vehicles, renewable energy and cloud storage backup.
Tin may have some new use in lithium-ion batteries as a nanotin product added into the carbon electrode. Although silicon has a higher charge capacity and currently features most prominently in the field, there is growing interest in tin with a demonstrated benefit of using both materials together. Tin also continues to be featured prominently in research on materials for next generation magnesium-ion and sodium-ion batteries.
Smaller, but potentially significant markets for tin include new generation, low cost, solar cell materials and thermoelectric materials – such as tin selenide – which convert waste heat into electricity and are frequently referenced in scientific publications. Other areas of interest that could be part of the future tin story are hydrogen fuel production, fuel cells and fuel catalysts that can greatly reduce emissions as well as boosting efficiency.
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In the February 2016 edition of Paydirt, Rhys Dickson reports that “Stellar Resources Ltd bucked the Tasmanian junior mining trend in 2015, steadfastly advancing its Heemskirk tin project.” He went on to say that “while a majority of its compatriots withdrew in the hope of better days to come, Stellar initiated a string of studies in a bid to increase Heemskirk’s appeal and to ultimately woo a JV partner for the project.”
The study of micro-structures in drill core by Teale and Associates combined with a report by IAMM Consulting on seismic data compiled by a previous explorer “not only confirmed Stellar’s suspicions that Heemskirk’s mineralisation persisted at depth, but provided the company a focus for resource drilling and future exploration.”
Rhys Dickson went on to say that “The last report to come across managing director Peter Blight’s desk in 2015 was by far the best” A PFS optimisation study bolstered Heemskirk’s NPV by 62% to $99 million, reduced its pre-production capital cost by 12.9% to $110 million and slashed its operating costs by 8.2% to $21,355/t tin.
“Stellar has added significant value to Heemskirk via multiple studies over the past two years”
Managing director Peter Blight was quoted in the article saying “we still think there are opportunities to sharpen the pencil when we get into the DFS. There is quite a bit to look forward to once we get the DFS process going.
PT Refined Bangka Tin, Indonesia’s second-biggest smelter, has ceased operations in support of the government’s commitment to preserve the environment, and its facilities on Bangka island will become a conservation area. The move will cut exports by about 14 percent, an industry group said.
The company “has decided to close its tin refining and marketing operations for a commitment to preserve the environment and to support Indonesia’s government and President’s commitment” to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, according to a statement Tuesday from Tomy Winata, chairman of Artha Graha Network, which owns PT Refined Bangka Tin.
Artha Graha Network “wants to ensure that all business lines support the environment, including green-mining practices, and we see that our mining operations are currently far from meeting the group standard,” the smelter’s Chief Executive Officer Petrus Tjandra said by phone from Jakarta Tuesday.
The closure is the latest blow to the country’s tin industry, the world’s biggest exporter. The government has imposed curbs on production and overseas sales, tightened up on taxation and quality standards, and obliged exporters to trade the metal on a local exchange before shipping. Monsoon rains and floods have also disrupted mining and ore supplies.
Prices of tin, used in everything from electronics to packaging, have jumped 8.9 percent this year to $15,850 a metric ton on the London Metal Exchange. The metal has advanced 19 percent from the closing low on Jan. 15, just short of 20 percent which is the common definition of a bull market.
Banks to Plantations
Artha Graha Network is a conglomerate with businesses ranging from banks to plantations and mining. Refined Bangka Tin is a private company established in 2007, and has the capacity to produce 2,000 tons of refined tin a month, according to a statement on its website. Bambang Gatot Ariyono, director general of coal and minerals at Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, said by phone that he hasn’t received a report on the closure.
The shuttering could reduce exports from Indonesia by at least 10,000 tons this year, Jabin Sufianto, chairman of the Association of Indonesian Tin Exporters, said by phone. He said the estimate was based on Refined Bangka’s past performance and its business plan. The country shipped 70,155 tons in 2015, the smallest amount since at least 2008.
The possibility of other smelters filling the shortfall will depend on their business plans and approval from the Bangka mining office, he said.
Environmental concerns have also affected the nation’s biggest tin smelter, PT Timah, which halted offshore mining last month in response to complaints from local fishermen.
Two other smelters, PT Stanindo Inti Perkasa, and PT DS Jaya Abadi, are producing at below 70 percent of capacity due to a halving in ore supplies, M.B. Gunawan, a director at Stanindo and general manager at Jaya Abadi, said by phone on Monday. At issue are government rules imposed in November that require ore to originate from licensed mines.
Both companies are “currently only exporting about 100 tons per month,” Gunawan said. The smelters expect to raise output to about 80 percent capacity by mid-year, he added.
Tin exports have dropped every year since 2013 due to stricter regulations. Shipments dropped 7.6 percent in 2015 from a year earlier, according to Trade Ministry data compiled by Bloomberg. Overseas sales plunged 57 percent to 2,486 tons last month from December, the data showed.