Malaysia Smelting Corporation (MSC) will end the year on a positive note, following commissioning of its new smelter and news that its force majeure will soon be lifted.
MSC is one of the world’s largest tin smelters, producing some 22,400 tonnes in 2020 – the third highest globally. However, in June 2021, the company was forced to cease operations due to coronavirus control measures in Malaysia.
COVID cases in the country began picking up in May 2021 and peaked at some 24,000 new cases per day that August. To cope with the rapid rise, the Malaysian government implemented significant control measures – including work-from-home requirements, with no more than 30% of a company’s workforce allowed on-site. As a result of the significantly reduced workforce, MSC were forced to declare force majeure.
Since September, however, infection rates have been falling in Malaysia. New recorded cases were just 4,626 on 1 November 2021 and approaching the government’s target of just 4,000 cases per day. As the number of cases have fallen, restrictions for companies have been relaxed; in September, it was reported that 80% of MSC’s workforce was allowed back to the plant.
With operations returning to normality, MSC is now looking to lift its force majeure.
“Barring unforeseen circumstances, we do plan and hope we can lift it by month end”, MSC CEO Dato’ Dr Patrick Yong told ITA. However, even with the force majeure in place, the company has “spared no effort in returning tin to tollers, the best we possibly could”. Some 30% of MSC’s business is tolling, where tin concentrate suppliers can have their material treated for a cost, with the resulting metal returned to them for sale.
On top of resuming normal operations at its Butterworth smelter, the company has successfully completed hot commissioning of its new smelter at Pulau Indah, Port Klang. “The new smelter at Pulau Indah has been running well at an initial slow place”, Yong said, “We hope to pick up speed very soon.” The new ISASMELT technology will allow the company to process lower grade ores, while the facility boasts double the capacity of Butterworth.
MSC plans to gradually switch production to the new smelter, running both the Butterworth and Pulau Indah smelters simultaneously for a short period.
Our view: The return of MSC to the tin market will benefit many; consumers will be glad of additional metal, while the material will also increase liquidity on the LME. We expect the increased capacity at MSC to be well-utilised as demand for tin increases due to new technologies.