Why Invest In Tin?
Tin Market Outlook
Tin prices have soared since the start of 2021 reaching 10-year high’s not seen since the 2011 boom. The LME spot tin price has averaged ~US$28,000/t for the 2 months to 14 April 2021.
This is due to strong physical global tin demand growth which has exceed falling global tin supply and is creating an extremely tight market for tin with LME tin stocks reaching near record lows.
Physical tin demand is growing strongly as a result of:
- Covid and the rise of remote working has boosted demand for computers and other home electronics devices. As tin solder is the ‘glue’ connecting everything electronic, this means increased demand for tin.
- Continued demand for tin in traditional uses including tinplate, chemicals, lead-acid batteries, alloys and other uses.
Global tin supply has fallen for each of the last 3 years. Falling global tin supply has been the result of:
- China is the world’s largest miner of tin and smelter of tin metal and has also been a net tin importer this year. Production cuts have occurred in many Chinese tin smelters this year due to tin ore shortages. China is stockpiling tin to meet its goal of self-sufficiency in semiconductors.
- Indonesia (world’s 2nd largest producer) – production has fallen this year due to a poor monsoon season along with ongoing environmental controls and covid issues.
- Myanmar (world’s 3rd largest producer) – production has fallen this year due to the military coup and largely unreliable artisanal and small-scale mining.
- South America (world’s 4th largest producer) supply has been reduced this year due to Covid issues.
- Many existing tin mines now have lower grade and diminishing resources. There has been limited exploration or investment in new tin projects and many are either in risky jurisdictions or are low grade deposits.
Tin – The Number 1 New Technology Metal
Tin ranked as the No. 1 metal best placed to benefit from new technology according to a survey undertaken by Boston’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for Rio Tinto in 2018.
~50% of all tin is used as solder in electronics. Solder is the ‘glue’ that connects everything electronic together.
Our clean, new technology future is being driven by robotics, advanced computing, EV’s, energy storage and renewables – these all require more electronics and semiconductors which all need more tin.
Growing research is also showing that tin may be a more effective anode material in Li-ion batteries.
With the highest grade undeveloped tin resource in Australia & 2nd highest globally and a scoping study completed in 2019 confirming attractive economics, the Heemskirk Tin Project is well positioned to take advantage of this year’s booming tin market which is expected to continue to perform strongly.
Uses of Tin
Tin has a wide variety of uses including; solder, tin chemicals, tinplate, lead-acid batteries, copper alloys and other uses. It also has increasing usage as an energy metal for Electric Vehicles.
47% of tin is consumed as lead-free solder by the consumer electronics industry.
Tin chemicals, the second largest end-use with 16% of the market, has the fastest growth.
Solder is the ‘glue’ that connects everything electronic together.
Thanks to the positive growth forecasts for 5G-based electronics technologies in the imminent ‘4th Industrial Revolution’ as well as new markets for interconnection in electric vehicles and other climate change-related infrastructures the longer-term outlook for solder usage remains very positive, despite recent macroeconomic shocks. At the same time electronics miniaturisation that has suppressed solder markets over the last decade may weaken over the next five years, allowing for resumption of significant growth
Tin chemicals for PVC stabilisers, polymer catalysts and numerous other applications is the second largest tin use, with steady growth. They look likely to retain this position for the foreseeable future, with new uses in energy materials in prospect longer term.
Tinplate is mainly used in food cans as well as in some beverage cans, general line cans for chemicals, paints and dry products and also in can ends. Global consumption of tinplate remains static or declining with new opportunities in emerging economies and circular economy regulation.
Tin use in lead-acid batteries, especially in China, is expected to grow steadily with the introduction of more start-stop and microhybrid vehicles as well as growth in alternative energy and telecoms markets.
Copper Alloys & Other Uses
Copper alloys including bronze are still widely used in applications ranging from sculpture to electrical products. Tin and other alloys, including powders and coatings, are used in brake pads, roofing, engineering, bearings and numerous other ways. Traditional pewter giftware is still highly valued and tin wine capsules are used in luxury wines and spirits. There may be new opportunities for tin-copper products in electric vehicles and renewable energy infrastructure.
Tin Use in Vehicles
Tin is called the ‘spice element’ because a little of it is present everywhere in ways that are essential to our quality of life. Tin use in vehicles is a good example.
Lithium Ion Batteries / Electric Vehicles
Tin may be the ‘forgotten eV metal’. As other commodities gain public attention tin is quietly gaining momentum as a performance enhancing component in all of the three generations of advanced anode materials that have been roadmapped to 2030, plus some solid state technologies. Several hundred papers and patents have tracked development of tin-based materials to maximum theoretical capacity and even beyond. Although the field is highly competitive, startups and major OEMs are starting to signal their interest in tin and International Tin is monitoring developments with keen interest.
Post Lithium Ion Batteries
Whilst the current focus is on lithium ion batteries the next generation of cheaper, safer products is already in development, including sodium ion, magnesium ion, potassium ion and other products. Tin, its alloys and compounds are prominent candidates for anode materials in some of these, and a growing number of developments including tin are noted. Although performance of some prototypes already exceeds commercial lithium ion products, it is likely that such products will find their own market space and indeed some are already being used in niche markets.
Tin was early in the race for new ‘earth abundant’ materials to replace expensive and rare elements used in current solar PV technologies such as gallium. The first generation product was a ‘kesterite’ copper tin zinc sulphide (CZTS) developed by IBM. More recently tin has gained attention in ‘lead-free’ perovskite products that have dramatically competitive performance, targeted at new markets for example on architectural glass. Tin is also being explored as a heat energy storage medium on solar farms that concentrate sunlight using mirrors. Apart from the materials themselves, this sector is already benefitting tin use in China particularly through increased use of solder ribbon used to join solar cells, and increased associated electronics production.
Tin Market Facts
China, Indonesia and Myanmar are the world’s major suppliers of tin mine production.
Myanmar supply has declined in recent years and this is expected to continue.
Global mine supply totals ~300,000 tonnes with recycled tin accounting for another ~50,000 tonnes.
China, at 44%, is the largest consuming country of tin followed by other Asia at 25%.
China is the world’s largest producer of refined tin metal.