The International Tin Research Institute (ITRI) has forecast that there is likely to be a global shortfall of tin commencing in 2018. Future supply is uncertain as tin inventories are running low and economically viable tin reserves are being depleted. There are a limited number of active industrial scale tin mines outside of China and Indonesia and the majority of other new projects face significant technical, financing and other challenges, while obtaining the required permits to build a mine remain complex. As a result, tin mining companies should become of increasing interest to the owners of consumer brands and their manufacturers, which use tin in their products (laptops, mobile phones and cars). Consumer companies will need to secure supply.

ITRI’s twelfth annual survey of tin users gathered data from tin users worldwide between June and August 2016. 129 companies took part in the survey, accounting for some 45% of estimated global refined tin use in 2015.

Key findings of the survey are:

  • ITRI’s latest estimate of refined tin use in 2015 is 345,700t, based on data from the 2016 survey. Refined tin demand reported by survey participants contracted in 2015 but is expected to remain static or improve slightly in 2016.
  • Solder still accounts for the largest global share of tin use although 2015 use was the lowest for a decade. Producers reported on a tough year and several were concerned about threats from miniaturisation and solderless technologies. Automotive and industrial uses are growing, and powder and paste production in China is set to increase.
  • Regulatory issues continue to be the key concern in chemicals markets, though major PVC stabiliser producers outside China are positive about market growth in 2016. Markets for inorganic products remain flat. Excess tinplate capacity in China is a concern. Recent rapid growth of tin use in lead-acid battery grids has slowed in China due to overcapacity, market saturation of e-bikes and early competition from lithium-ion batteries.
  • Total global tin use including refined and unrefined forms is provisionally estimated at 420,400 tonnes in 2015. The Recycling Input Rate (use of recycled tin in all forms as a proportion of total usage) for the year was calculated at 31%, down from 33% in 2014. This percentage has generally risen over the last decade, with dips largely corresponding to periods of lower tin prices.
  • From analysis of refined tin stocks reported by participants, it appears that pipeline stocks held by tin users have fallen by about a third, or over 10,000 tonnes, over the last 5 years to an estimated 21,000 tonnes.

ITRI forecasts a widening deficit in supply in the global tin market and a corresponding increase in tin price.
ITRI sees market equilibrium at USD 22,000/tonne.