Tin

David Champion (david.champion@ga.gov.au)

Aden McKay (aden.mckay@ga.gov.au)

Tin (Sn) is used in solders for joining metals and pipes, as a coating for steel cans and in metal alloys. The largest single application for tin is in solders, which accounts for about half of current world consumption. Solders are used in light engineering applications such as plumbing and sheet metal work, in the motor vehicle industry and in cans for various uses. Another major application for tin is coating steel sheet in the manufacture of tinplate, which accounts for about 16% of world tin consumption. Tinplate is used for containers in the form of tin cans for food products, drinks, oils, paints, disinfectants and chemicals.

Resources

Australia's Economic Demonstrated Resources (EDR) of tin was 243 kilotonnes (kt) at December 2011, up slightly from 229 kt72 in 2010. Increases in Australia's EDR were reported at Renison Bell and Queen Hill deposits in Tasmania (Tas) and Baal Gammon in north Queensland (Qld).

Just under 80% of Australia's EDR of tin are contained in the Renison Bell deposit in western Tas. Others include the Mount Lindsay and Queen Hill deposits in western Tas as well as several northern Qld occurrences: the Gillian and associated deposits, and the Mount Garnet and Baal Gammon deposits.

In 2011, Subeconomic Demonstrated Resources (comprising Paramarginal and Submarginal Resources) increased to 97 kt largely because of reclassification of existing resources. Inferred Resources increased from 222 kt in 2010 to 231 kt in 2011. Tasmania accounts for 53% of Inferred Resources, followed by Qld with 24%, and New South Wales (NSW) with 16%.

Accessible EDR

All of Australia's EDR for tin are accessible.

JORC Reserves

Joint Ore Reserve Committee (JORC) Code reserves comprise total tin in Proved and Probable Ore Reserves as defined in the JORC Code. In 2011, JORC Code reserves of 119 kt accounted for about 49% of Accessible Economic Demonstrated Resources (AEDR). This compares with 126 kt of JORC Code reserves in 2010.

Exploration

Exploration continued in the historic tin mining areas of Herberton-Mount Garnet in north Qld, in the New England, Bourke and Broken Hill regions of NSW and in western Tas. Data on tin exploration expenditures are not reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Production

Australia's mine production in 2011 was just over 500073 tonnes of tin in concentrates, a decrease from the 2010 production of 6600 tonnes. There has been no production of refined tin in Australia since 2007 when the Greenbushes tin smelter in Western Australia (WA) closed. Total exports of tin for 2011 were 4992 tonnes valued at $119 million74. This compares with 6011 tonnes valued at $116 million exported in 2010.

Figure 14 is a series of three maps showing the location of tin, tungsten, tantalum, niobium, rare earth oxides and lithium deposits and prospects discussed in each commodity chapter.Figure 14 is a series of three maps showing the location of tin, tungsten, tantalum, niobium, rare earth oxides and lithium deposits and prospects discussed in each commodity chapter.

Figure 14. Map showing location of tin (Sn), tungsten (W), tantalum (Ta), niobium (Nb), rare earth oxides (REO) and lithium (Li) deposits and prospects discussed in commodity chapters.

World Ranking

World economic resources of tin in 2011 are estimated to be 4863 kt based on United States Geological Survey (USGS) data and updated by Geoscience Australia for Australia's resources. According to the USGS, China holds about 31% of the resources followed by Indonesia with about 16% and Brazil with about 12%. Based on the USGS figures and those updated by Geoscience Australia, Australia has a 5% share of world resources of tin.

World production of tin in 2011 is estimated to be 250 kt based on USGS data updated with Australia's production data. These figures represent a slight decrease on production of 265 kt of tin in 2010. China was the major producer with about 44% of world production, followed by Indonesia with about 20% and Peru with about 14%. USA production was not recorded for confidential reasons. Australian production of tin was ranked number seven in the world.

Industry Developments

The price of tin on the London Metal Exchange had recovered significantly from the late-2008/early-2009 low point experienced during the global financial crisis (US$10 000 a tonne or $14 400), reaching highs (US$33 000 or around $33 000) in the second half of the 2010-11 financial year. The price has subsequently receded, dropping to below US$18 000 in August 2012 before recovering slightly to about US$22 000 in early October 2012.

In March 2010, Metals X Limited (Metals X) completed the sale of a 50% interest in its Tasmanian Tin assets to the world's largest tin producer, China's Yunnan Tin-Parksong Group (YTPG). The Tasmanian Tin assets include the Renison Bell Mine, the Renison Tin Concentrator, the Renison Expansion Project, Rentails, and the Mount Bischoff Tin Project. A new joint venture company, Bluestone Mines Tasmania Joint Venture Pty Ltd (BMTJV), was established by Metals X through its wholly owned subsidiary Bluestone Mines Tasmania Pty Ltd and Yunnan Tin Parksong Australia Holding Pty Ltd and will manage the assets.

BMTJV current operations are at the Renison Bell underground mine near Zeehan in western Tas. Production is from both the South Renison and higher grade North Renison areas with production from North Renison beginning in mid 2012. Ore from the mine is treated at the Renison concentrator. Production for 2011 was 5014 tonnes of tin metal and 417 tonnes of copper metal. With mining from both North and South Renison, production is expected to reach 8000 tonnes of tin in concentrates a year. A copper circuit was commissioned in December 2010, with production of around 500 tonnes a year of copper in concentrate. Mining ceased at Mount Bischoff in July 2010 and the last ore was treated in late 2010.

The company is carrying out both underground and surface exploration around the Renison deposit. Highlights from underground include favourable extensions to the Lower Federal, Huon and Northern King ore zones, as well as delineation and further definition of the Central Federal-Bassett zone, a newly discovered mineralised zone in the area between the southern and northern declines access. Surface exploration is focussing on the Sligo ore body as well as the Dalcoath and Federal areas, which the company suggests will be exploitable by open-pit mining. Resources at Renison Bell to 31 March 2012 comprised Measured Resources of 972 kt at 2.0% Sn, Indicated Resources of 5457 kt at 1.46% Sn, and Inferred Resources of 3256 kt at 1.67% Sn, representing about 153 500 tonnes of contained Sn. The resource includes Proved Reserves of 372 kt at 1.44% Sn and Probable Reserves of 2970 kt at 1.36% Sn.

In 2009, Metals X completed a feasibility study on proposals to recover tin from tailings produced by historic processing of tin ores from Rentails at Renison Bell mine. Resources at Rentails to 31 March 2012 comprise Measured Resources of 19 999 kt averaging 0.45% Sn and 0.21% copper (Cu), which represents 89 400 tonnes of contained Sn and 42 400 tonnes of contained Cu. The resource includes Probable Reserves of 19 158 kt at 0.45% Sn and 0.21% Cu. The recovery project proposes reclaiming tailings at a rate of 2 Mt a year to produce about 5300 tonnes Sn and 2000 tonnes Cu contained in concentrates per year. The company reported that a combination of sulphide flotation and tin flotation techniques would produce a 10% tin concentrate which could be smelted to produce a tin fume product assaying in excess of 68% tin.

Metals X's Collingwood mine, about 30 km south of Cooktown in north Qld, has been under care and maintenance since its closure in mid 2008. The company has decided to dispose of the property.

Following completion of a successful prefeasibility study in March, 2011, Venture Minerals Limited (Venture) commenced a bankable feasibility study for its Mount Lindsay tin-tungsten deposit located 15 kilometres (km) northwest of Renison Bell tin mine and 20 km west of Rosebery in western Tas. The prospect is in magnetite-rich (Fe3O4) skarns within the contact aureole of the Meredith granite, which is part of a suite of Devonian granites that are the source rocks for a number of large tin, tungsten and magnetite deposits in western Tas and on King Island in Bass Strait.

The Mount Lindsay tin-tungsten deposit has combined resources of 43 million tonnes (Mt) at 0.4% Sn equivalent (with a 0.2% cut-off) or 10 Mt at 0.7% Sn equivalent (at 0.45% cut-off). The latter figure includes Indicated Resources of 6.2 Mt at 0.4% Sn and 0.3% tungsten oxide (WO3). The deposit also includes an iron (Fe) resource. The bankable feasibility study is expected to be completed in the second half of 2012.

Venture completed drilling associated with the feasibility study in late 2011 and highlights included 48 metres (m) at 0.8%, 30 m at 0.9% and 68 m at 0.6% Sn equivalent at the No. 2 skarn, and 22 m at 1.7%, 12 m at 2.0% and 22 m at 1.2% Sn equivalent at the main skarn. The company also completed a pilot scale metallurgical program in August 2012 that demonstrated recoveries of 72% Sn and 83% WO3, as well as high grade tungsten concentrate (more than 66% WO3). Venture submitted a mining lease application for the company's Mount Lindsay tin-tungsten project on 15 September 2011.

In August 2012, Venture announced favourable drill intersections from its first hole into the Big Wilson Project approximately 6 km northeast of the Mount Lindsay Project. Intersections include 35.4 m at 1.0% Sn, including 17.4 m at 2.0% Sn and 4.0 m at 5.6% Sn. The Big Wilson Prospect occurs in an area of historic alluvial tin workings with mineralisation including both skarn and greisen styles.

In January 2012, Stellar Resources Limited (Stellar) took over control of the Heemskirk Tin Project through acquisition of joint venture partner Gippsland Limited's 40% share of the project. The Heemskirk project, which comprises the Queen Hill, Montana and Severn deposits, has a combined mineral resource of 4.4 Mt at 1.1% Sn (at March 2011), including Indicated Resources of 1.6 Mt at 1.2% Sn at the Queen Hill deposit.

Stellar completed a favourable scoping study for the three deposits in July 2011 which indicated the potential for an economic underground tin mine recovering 600 kt of ore per annum over 7.6 years and producing about 3900 tonnes per annum (tpa) of concentrates. The company is undertaking a prefeasibility study which includes detailed deposit drilling in 2012 (10 000 m planned) to upgrade and expand the Severn, Queen Hill and Montana resources. The initial results of this drilling show that mineralisation in the Severn deposit occurs within multiple tin lodes in a broad iron sulphide stockwork envelope. Favourable intercepts include 42 m at 1.11% Sn, including 12 m at 2.58% Sn. Further metallurgical test work is underway.

In February and September 2011, TNT Mines Limited applied for offshore exploration tenements in Ringarooma Bay as part of its Ringarooma Bay alluvial tin project in northeast Tas. The tenements cover parts of the old Ringarooma River channel. The project has an historic Indicated Resource of 16 million cubic meters at 227 grams of tin per cubic meter. The company is planning to undertake a geophysical survey as well as sampling of the seafloor mineralisation. TNT has undertaken work at its other Tas properties, including initial metallurgical investigations at the undeveloped Moina fluorspar-tin-tungsten deposit which is a magnetite skarn with complex metallurgy in northwest Tas.

In the third quarter of 2011, mining activities commenced at the Monto Mineral Limited (Monto) Baal Gammon polymetallic deposit, 7 km west of Herberton in north Qld. Mining was being undertaken by Kagara Limited (Kagara) which has a Minerals Rights Agreement with Monto. The ore was being processed at Kagara's Mount Garnet copper processing facility and just under 38 kt of ore with an average grade of 1.9% Cu and 41.5 g/t silver (Ag) had been milled prior to suspension of activities by Kagara in April 2012 and before the company went into voluntary administration. In September 2012, Monto announced the recommencement of mining activities by Kagara (administrators appointed) at the Baal Gammon mine with the first stage of mining to develop the open pit to a level sufficient to contain storm water flows resulting from previous flooding.

Prior to cessation of mining, Kagara undertook resource diamond drilling at the deposit and released an updated resource estimate with Indicated Resources of 2769 kt at 1.0% Cu, 40 g/t Ag, 0.2% Sn and 38 g/t indium (In). Tin was not being extracted but Monto and Kagara were assessing the technical and commercial feasibility of a tin extraction circuit. In November 2011, Monto applied successfully for a mining lease over the Confederation copper-tin prospect, contiguous with the existing Baal Gammon Mining Leases and within 800 m of the Baal Gammon mine. Monto undertook drilling at the Confederation prospect in the first half of 2012. Intercepts included 6 m at 4.33% Cu, 1.25% Sn, 106 g/t Ag and 301 g/t In.

In July 2011, Consolidated Tin Mines Ltd (Consolidated) completed 8148 m of drilling in the Mount Garnet Project area 200 km southwest of Cairns in Qld at the Gillian (5 km southwest of Mount Garnet), and Windemere (25 km northeast of Mount Garnet) tin deposits, and prospects in the Coolgarra area (15 km northeast of Mount Garnet). Results for the Windemere deposit include intersections of 2 m at 2.7% Sn, 4 m at 1.16% Sn, and 15 m at 0.63% Sn. Results for Gillian included 23 m at 1.4% Sn and 28.5 m at 0.93% Sn, plus the identification of zones of copper (Cu) mineralisation, including 11 m at 0.93% Cu.

Further drilling was undertaken at the Gillian and Pinnacles deposits in late 2011 and the second quarter of 2012. Initial results from this drilling for Gillian were positive resulting in significant near surface intersections, including 29 m at 1.24% Sn and 27 m at 1.01% Sn. Favourable intersections were reported also for the Pinnacles project area with grades between 0.4 and 0.86% Sn. Drilling confirmed that the mineralisation at Sniksa, Hartog and Llahsram in the Pinnacles deposit are all part of the same flat-lying mineralised skarn.

In September 2010, Consolidated announced a revised total JORC Code resource of 7.38 Mt at 0.6% Sn, 5.27 Mt at 25.78% Fe and 0.96 Mt at 15.25% fluorine (F) for its Mount Garnet project, reflecting the inclusion of resources at the Windemere deposit. Included within the total resource, is a JORC Code Measured Resource at the Gillian deposit of 1.2 Mt at 0.82% Sn. The Gillian, Pinnacles and Windemere deposits are in iron-rich skarns adjacent to granitic intrusions, while the Coolgarra area contains sediment-hosted and granite greisen mineralisation. The Mount Garnet skarn deposits contain fine cassiterite which is difficult because of metallurgical problems. Through 2011-12 Consolidated continued metallurgical testing to separate the fine cassiterite from the ironstone skarn material.

It also processed an 80 tonne sample from the Gillian Project at the Talison mine site at Greenbushes in WA. The company is also evaluating by-product Fe, F, Cu and zinc (Zn).

Consolidated initiated a prefeasibility study at the Mount Garnet Project, which the company indicated should be completed by the end of 2012 and would incorporate results from the metallurgical test work. In May 2012, Consolidated announced it had entered into agreement (approved by shareholders in July 2012) with major shareholder Snow Peak International Pty Ltd (Snow Peak) to fund the completion of the prefeasibility study, which, on completion, gives Snow Peak the option to earn up to 50% interest in a joint venture with Consolidated to develop the Mount Garnet project. The company also announced, in October 2011, that it had reached agreement with Friends Exploration Pty Ltd to purchase the Jeannie River prospect, 92 km northwest of Cooktown in north Qld. On the basis of previous exploration results by Carpentaria Exploration Company, Consolidated announced a JORC Code compliant Inferred Resource of 2240 kt at 0.60% Sn. The Jeannie River prospect comprises parallel cassiterite mineralised quartz veins.

In 2011-12, Monto Mineral Limited (Monto) continued exploration at its Herberton tin project 70 km southwest of Cairns in north Qld. The work included detailed stream-sediment and geochemical sampling in the region as well as rock-chip sampling traverses over the Pompeii, Arbouin and Kitchener tin targets. In late 2011, Monto signed two option agreements to purchase several advanced tin mining properties adjacent to its own tenements, including Mining and Exploration leases incorporating the historic Great Southern tin mine and the Mount Misery prospect centred on the former Mount Tin mine. The Mount Misery prospect was extensively explored by Western Mining Corporation in the 1980s which identified a non-JORC Code compliant resource of between 100 and 140 kt of mineable ore at a grade of 0.4% to 0.6% Sn to a depth of 100 m, with a cut-off grade of 0.2% Sn. The Great Southern area was also the subject of detailed exploration in the mid-1960s by Metals Exploration NL generating non-JORC Code compliant target mineralisation of 25 to 30 kt at a grade of 1 to 1.3% Sn.

MGT Mining Limited (formerly Xtreme Resources Limited and now a 81% owned subsidiary of MGT Resources) continued exploration around the historic tin mines in the immediate proximity of its Mount Veteran tin plant, including the Dalcouth, Summer Hill, Extended, Tom Hood and Smiths Creek mines. All are located in the Mount Garnet district, north Qld. An upgrade of the tin plant was completed in 2011 resulting in a 70 000 tpa processing capacity. A stage 2 upgrade to 250 000 tpa processing capacity is being planned. A mining lease was granted in late 2011 from which tailings and ore will be used as feed for the mill. An application for another mining lease is in process.

At Greenbushes mine, in southwest WA, production of tin ceased in 2007 with the closure of the smelter. Tin resources for Greenbushes operations have not been publicly reported for more than a decade. Historical estimates of tin resources for Greenbushes have not been included in Australia's EDR since 2008. Global Advanced Metals (GAM) indicates that it has produced by-product tin from its tantalum deposit at Wodgina about 100 km southeast of Port Hedland, although amounts are not reported. Production at Wodgina resumed in April 2011 with ore processed at GAM's Greenbushes facilities. Wodgina closed again early 2012 following softening of demand for tantalum.

In 2011-12, Malachite Resources (Malachite) shifted focus, concentrating on its Lorena gold project in northwest Qld. As a result, tin exploration by the company was minor with rock-chip and stream-sediment sampling in the Tingha Project, northern NSW. Malachite entered into an option to purchase agreement with Elsmore Resources Ltd, which Elsmore exercised in November 2011 for Malachite's Elsmore Project, 18 km east-southeast of Inverell in northern NSW.

Malachite continued work on its Conrad Project 25 km south of Inverell in northeast NSW investigating polymetallic silver deposits, which also contain tin (as stannite and cassiterite). The current global resource figures for Conrad have Indicated Resources of 447 kt at 123.8 grams per tonne (g/t) Ag, 0.26% Cu, 1.3% lead (Pb), 0.46% Zn, 0.28% Sn and 7.7 g/t In as well as Inferred Resources of 1807 kt at 101.9 g/t Ag, 0.21% Cu, 1.22% Pb, 0.46% Zn, 0.22% Sn and 6.4 g/t In.

A preliminary scoping study into the Conrad deposit highlighted the narrow width of ore zones (largely 0.6 to 0.8 m) and the sensitivity of such to the economics of the deposit. In 2012, Malachite granted an exclusive six-month option to a privately-owned Australian mining contractor with narrow vein expertise and vertical mining technology, Mancala Resources Pty Ltd, to carry out an evaluation of the Conrad Silver Project and the right (if exercised) to take a 50% interest in the project by funding and completing a feasibility study.

YTC Resources Limited (YTC) has the right to earn 70% of the Doradilla Project from Templar Resources, a wholly owned subsidiary of Straits Resources Ltd, by spending $1.5 million over five years. The Doradilla project, 55 km southeast of Bourke NSW, contains the Doradilla-Midway-3KEL tin deposits, which occur within a linear skarn unit that can be traced for more than 17 km along strike. The resource is limited to the weathered zone (laterite) where tin is hosted in stanniferous goethite, garnets, secondary cassiterite and minor primary cassiterite. The company has announced a combined Inferred Resource for the tin laterite (oxide) mineralisation of 7.81 Mt averaging 0.28% Sn (at a cut-off grade of 0.1% Sn) for 22.3 kt of contained tin. During 2011, YTC undertook drilling to test the mineralised contact of an intrusion associated with copper-tungsten mineralisation at the historic Doradilla Mine. The company reported broad intervals of anomalous lead and zinc and occasional intervals of anomalous copper, tin and silver. There appears to have been limited activity since then.

At its Tallebung tin-tungsten deposit, 70 km northwest of Condobolin in central NSW, YTC has commenced a Right to Negotiate Process under the Native Title Act to seek access to undertake two deep drill holes aimed at testing targets from a previous resistivity survey (below outcropping mineralisation) and to assist in scoping of the Tallebung system for a potential large-tonnage, low-grade tin deposit. In the September quarter of 2011, YTC completed a shares and options agreement with Taronga Mines Limited and Australian Oriental Mines for its New England tin projects of Pound Flat and Torrington. Taronga Mines also controls the adjacent lease over the large, low grade Taronga tin deposit.

In 2011-12, Thomson Resources (Thomson) undertook exploratory drilling of magnetic targets at four prospects at the Cuttaburra and Falcon projects, which were spread over a 40 km east-west zone within the southern part of the undercover Thomson Orogen in northwest NSW. Thomson reported that drilling on the four prospects intersected evidence of mineralised hydrothermal systems, including alteration and mineralisation. Two of the targets gave high grade polymetallic intercepts, particularly gold to 3.7 g/t and silver to 113 g/t, but also bismuth to 0.4%, Cu to 0.5%, Pb to 1.8%, Sn to 0.8%, W to 0.6% and Zn to 4.25%.Mineralisation is reported to be occurring as sheeted and stockwork veins up to a metre in width and within wide zones of altered basement rocks of the Thomson Orogen. On the basis of the polymetallic assemblage, plus the presence of granite intersected in one hole, the company is suggesting an intrusion-related gold style of mineralisation. Thomson has planned additional drilling to test shallower parts of the mineralisation.

Further exploration at the Prospect Hill Tin Project, in the northern Flinders Ranges, South Australia, has been postponed indefinitely because of matters associated with Native Title. Havilah Resources, which has earned a 65% interest in the project, had planned further exploration in 2011-12, including drilling aimed at increasing the hard rock resource. The South Ridge prospect, within the Prospect Hill project area, has old Inferred Resources of 172 000 tonnes at 1.15% Sn.

Endnotes

72 The EDR for 2010 has been reassessed as 229 kt, from the previously reported value 358kt. This was due to the reclassification of older resource figures as subeconomic in several deposits, and a correction of figures within one deposit.

73 Figures do not include tin production in Western Australia for which data is not available. Production in that state is not believed to be significant.

74 Export statistics from Resources and Energy Quarterly publications of the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics, Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.