With tin set to be the metal most impacted by future technologies, and tin supply slowing due to long-term declines in mine grades, new sources of tin need to be found. Junior mining companies are already working to get their development projects off the ground, while established miners are working to increase their life of mine. A recent investment flurry is pushing these projects towards production.
Junior miners accelerate toward production
Alphamin’s Bisie mine is one of the projects that are closest to production, scheduled for Q3 2019. On 8 April, Alphamin announced that they had raised US$ 12 million in capital through a private share placement. Although Alphamin had assured investors in December that cash reserves were sufficient until production at Bisie, the recent change in mining method has driven up costs. Announced last November, the switch from sublevel caving to cut and fill means that more development must be completed ahead of the demand for ore, hence the increased capital cost.
Despite this issue, Bisie is approaching full production, with the processing plant now fully commissioned. Bisie is expected to produce 9,600 tonnes of tin concentrate per year and remains one of the highest-grade deposits in the world, with an initial life of mine of 12.5 years.
Aus Tin Mining, who recently began mining at its Granville East project, have also seen investment into new mine supply. The company has received $ 450,000, also through a private share placement, with the potential for another $ 750,000 via a share purchase plan. The company announced that this investment would be utilised to move the Taronga project into Stage 1, which consists of a 340,000 tonne trial mine with the Northern Zone Ore Reserves along with a pilot processing plant. In total, the Stage 1 operations are estimated to cost around $ 3 million.
Established mines to get new lease of life
Comibol, the Bolivian state-owned miner, has finally signed a contract to expand the processing plant at its Colquiri mine. A contract was originally announced with Bolivian company Ziegler back in 2016, although there have since been a total of four unsuccessful bidding rounds, as well as the most recent successful round.
The three-year deal was awarded to the Bolivian construction firm Carlos Caballero, with a total investment of US$ 72 million. The new concentrator plant, with a processing capacity of 2,000 tonnes/day, aims double output at Colquiri, where 3,753 tonnes of tin, and 15,233 tonnes of zinc, were produced in 2017 according to Comibol.
With growth in global refined tin demand likely to accelerate in the coming years, mine production will have to increase significantly to keep up. Although production world’s largest tin concentrate producers, Indonesia and China, are likely to remain stable in the next year, mining in Myanmar looks set to decline as mining costs increase. New sources will need to come online to make up for the loss in tin concentrate from Myanmar.