The latest customs data from the country reveals that it imported 21,115 tonnes of ores and concentrates (gross weight) in March. Some 86% of this originated from Myanmar; other major sources included Bolivia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some 2,395 tonnes of tin concentrate (gross) have arrived from Bolivia since the end of 2020 due to problems at the country’s major smelter EM Vinto during the year.
ITA estimates that the tin content of imports in March was some 6,000 tonnes. Three-quarters of this (4,500 tonnes) originated in Myanmar, exceeding our previous expectations of 3,500 tonnes. Imports from the country rose 114% from February and 22% year-on-year. At an estimated 1,500 tonnes tin-in-concentrate, imports from other countries also sharply increased in March, up 67% month-on-month and 400% compared to 2020.
Our view: High tin prices have enabled miners in Myanmar to process lower tin grades and have encouraged higher production levels, especially when compared to price levels at this time last year. Furthermore, new deals with African miners, along with surplus material from Bolivia, has helped boost raw materials supply in China so far this year.
This has not helped smelters, however. Many continue to report tight raw materials supply, despite some smelter closures in April. Treatment charges for 60% Sn concentrate remain near record lows. Domestic supply remains tight due to continued issues at major Chinese mine Baiyinchagan.
The proportion of imports from Myanmar rose in March, from 69% to 75%. With Myanmar under sanctions from the US, EU, and UK, companies outside of China are likely less inclined to take ore from the country. We expect more of Myanmar’s production to be shipped to China over the coming months.