Tin prices soar as supply squeeze builds

News Analysis




Tin prices soar as supply squeeze builds

On 8th April, tin cash and three-month contract tin prices closed at US$29,385/t and US$29,848/t, respectively on the London Metal Exchange. These price levels have not been seen since July last year before the mining and processing suspension in the Wa State, which was effective from the 1st August.

To no surprise the, ongoing, mining suspension in the Wa State continues to play a significant role on the current tin prices. Three months into 2024 and there remains uncertainty as to when the mining suspension will be lifted. Albeit, the suspension was imposed on mining and processing tin ores, a rule as part of the suspension stated that mine owners who have extracted ores prior to the suspension date would maintain access to their ores and were allowed to process it. However, the owners would need to apply for a processing approval from the Economic Planning Committee. Also, the tin concentrate produced would be subjected to a 30% tax-in-kind for tin concentrates with content above 20% Sn. Tin concentrates containing less than 20% Sn were subjected to a cash tax. These conditions slowed down production for a short while, as trade data showed a slump in September concentrate flows from Myanmar to China at just under 1.5kt of tin concentrate moving to Yunnan Province. However, production quickly ramped up as trade data showed high volumes of tin concentrate exports to China from October 2023 to February 2024. A total of 70kt tin concentrate moved across the Yunnan border over the five months. The Economic Planning Committee (EPC) acted swiftly if revising and reforming its mining tax policy. On the 7th of February the EPC announced that all tin concentrates exports are to be subjected to a 30% tax-in-kind.

Other notable influences also come from Southeast Asia. Indonesia changed its mining permit renewal system from having to renew the permit every year to every three years. This caused a backlog in permit processing approvals, as all mining companies had to apply for new permits resulting in no refined tin exports from January to February 2024. Indonesia is a key supplier of refined tin to China er go no permits = no exports = no refined tin supply. Trading of tin resumed on the Jakarta Futures Exchange in March.

Indonesia and Myanmar have been consistently in the top three tin producing countries over the last decade, together they account for approximately 33% of primary supply in 2023 according to Project Blue. China remains the largest producer and consumer tin. It should be noted that China’s downstream tin industry is not self-sufficient. Therefore, they rely heavily on imports from the two nations, Myanmar a key tin concentrate supplier and Indonesia a key refined tin supplier. Import trade data shows that China received 72% of tin concentrates from Myanmar and 71% of refined tin from Indonesia in 2023. The ongoing disruptions in the Wa State and the delay in mining approvals has created a supply squeeze in the short-term. Project Blue sees that the uncertainty surrounding the suspension could further exacerbate the supply shortfall and drive prices up. In response to the high, Brazil saw a 66% increase in tin concentrate exports over January to February 2024 compared to the same period last year. For context, in 2023, Brazil exported 28kt of tin concentrate this was more than double their 2022 export value and the highest it has been over the last decade. Could Brazil alleviate some of the pressure felt by the supply squeeze? In addition, with the issuing of license permits now resolved we have to wait-and-see how quickly Indonesia can respond to the squeeze to the current tin environment.