Myanmar has been thrust into the spotlight after a coup saw the country’s military take control from the government.
The country is the world’s third largest producer of tin concentrates, and a major source for China’s smelters. One of the biggest questions in the tin industry now is “how will this affect tin supply”?
The coup will undoubtedly throw much of the country into disarray. Along the border with China, port towns have been closed with immediate effect, including Ruili.
For tin mines, this town is essential for their supply of goods from China, such as oil and lubricants for mining and processing. According to miners in the country, the Heinda and Dawei mines in the south of the country are likely to reduce production in the short-term in an attempt to prolong their stockpiles. However, if the situation continues, it may force the mines may close.
Despite the bleak outlook for these mines, they produce a combined 500 – 600 tonnes of concentrate every month, just ~20% of the country’s output.
In fact, the majority of tin concentrate comes from Wa county in the autonomous Shan state. Because the region acts separately to the central government, it has not been affected by the coup d’état. Here, the port town of Menglian remains open, with tin shipments still possible.
Our view: We do not feel that the political unrest in Myanmar will impact much of the country’s tin supply. The Wa region is relatively isolated from the political situation in the rest of the country, and we expect business to continue as usual here. Although some mines in the area remain flooded, the high tin price is allowing miners to extract lower grade material. Generally found near-surface, this ore is now economic – alleviating the impact of the flood waters.
As such, we feel that February imports into China will remain relatively steady. Following December shipments of 3,400 tonnes of tin ores and concentrates, we forecast that around 3,200 tonnes of material will be shipped to China.