Malaysia's tin mining sector can thrive again now that tin
prices have stabilised above $20,000 per tonne, Dato Haji Musa
Bin Haji Nordin, executive chairman of tin miner Kuari Batu
Emas, told Metal Bulletin.
Kuari Batu Emas produces 2,000-2,200 tpy of tin that it sells
entirely to Malaysian Smelting Corp, the world's second-largest
"In the 1970s, Malaysia was the largest tin producer in the
world. But in the 1980s, tin prices collapsed, resulting in
people quickly abandoning the sector. So it was not because tin
resources were running out" Musa told MB at the ITRI
International Tin Conference in Cape Town.
"There are still rich tin resources yet to be exploited in
Malaysia. Given the tin prices above $20,000 today, we can see
people are looking into developing these tin mines again," he
If tin prices can continue to rise to between $25,000 and
$30,000 per tonne, people will have the motivation to develop
the tin industry in Malaysia, making tin a main commodity for
the country again, Musa said.
Prices justified by costs
As a producer, Kuari Batu Emas wants tin prices to be
as high as possible. But the company also needs to see at what
prices, end users are willing to buy, Musa noted.
"I think tin prices of $25,000-30,000 per tonne are
reasonable," he said.
The high tin prices are justified by the high costs of mining,
"Today, we are talking about sustainable mining and mining
rehabilitation. Mining companies need to take these costs into
account when pricing tin," he said, adding that increased fuel
and labour costs have also contributed to higher production
Tin prices to rise
At the same time, Musa is confident that global
demand will also boost prices.
"Tin usage is even greater today than in the olden days. All
the food cans are using tin now. People are switching from
aluminium as the main material to make cans to tin, because
aluminium has been proven to be dangerous to health," he said.
Tin demand also comes from the growth of tin solder and
electronics sectors, Musa added.
Opening of new mines
High tin prices have slowly made people look into
opening tin mines in Malaysia.
Last year, a 30-year mining concession was awarded to
Malaysia's own Rahman Hydraulic Tin for prospecting tin ore and
other minerals in a newly identified 14,000ha at Pengkalen Hulu
A 10-year mining lease was also awarded to HWG Tin Mining Sdn
Bhd, a unit of Ho Wah Genting Bhd in 2008 to mine tin and other
minerals on 500 acres in Pengkalan Hulu, with a potential for a
further 500 acres as work on the initial area progresses.
Previously, mining was perceived as damaging to the
environment, hence the reluctance of many state governments to
issue new mining licence to potential operators, Malaysian
paper The Star reported.
Today, to ensure efficient and effective implementation of tin
or other mineral mining operations, state governments keen to
open up mining areas must strictly adhere to the newly revised
Second National Mineral Policy (NMP) which was launched last
year, as well as the State Mineral Enactment.
NMP aims for an optimum exploration, extraction and utilisation
of resources using modern technology as well as research and
development with strong emphasis on the environment.
Largest tin producer in 1970s
Tin mining started in Malaysia as early as the 1820s.
By 1883, Malaysia had become the largest tin producer in the
world. By the end of the 19th century, it was supplying about
55% of the world's tin.
Malaysia's highest output was in 1979, when it produced almost
63,000 tonnes, accounting for 31% of the world output.
Rich tin mining areas stretched from Kedah state into the Kinta
Valley and along the foothills of Perak, Selangor and Johore
states. This part of the tin belt includes the capital of
Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, which is the centre of another rich
The collapse of tin prices from $15,000 per tonne in the 1970s
to just above $5,000 per tonne in the mid-1980s resulted in the
closure of many mines in Malaysia.
At the same time, new lower cost mines were developed in Brazil
and Indonesia, causing the Malaysian output to decline greatly.
Today, Malaysia's tin reserves are estimated at 350 billion
ringgit ($114 billion) or about one million tonnes.