Via AG Metal Miner
Cornish Metals plans to begin tin mining at its wholly-owned South Crofty site by 2026. According to the Vancouver-headquartered company, the start of mining will also coincide with an expected deficit in tin. Indeed, market analysts predict that there will be a significant shortfall in the global tin supply by the same year, which could drastically impact the tin price.
Plans are now underway at South Crofty to start dewatering the mine by June. According to Cornish Metals CEO Richard Williams last week, the current aim is to conclude the process by the end of 2024. The South Crofty site is in Cornwall, about 430 kilometers southwest of London. It boasts both an upper mine and a lower one.
In 2021, information from the company indicated that the mineral resource estimate for the lower mine (based on JORC standards) was 33 metric tons. This includes tin at a 1.59% grade in a mass of 2.08 million tons. The upper mine’s indicated resource estimate is 277,000 metric tons with a grade of 1.01% in a mass of 1.94 million metric tons. That said, the inferred estimate is 493,000 tons at 0.93%.
The Tin Price Index Has Major Implications for Renewables
One of tin’s main applications is in the production of solder. Manufacturers around the world use the versatile material to weld a variety of electronic components. For instance, solar panels use copper strips coated in tin solder to conduct energy between photovoltaic modules.
The current tin price index continues to face expectations of an improving economy in China, the proliferation of solar panels as part of global decarbonization efforts, and the build out of 5G networks. These three factors, among others, will likely push up demand for the base metal and outstrip supply by 2026.
Tin’s three-month closing price on the LME was $22,464 per metric ton on March 15, down more than 11.3% from $25,334 on March 1. The base metal had also seen a drop of about 17% month on month in late February, due to expectations of slower economic growth for 2023.
But concerns over Zürich-headquartered Credit Suisse’s future, following the collapse of US banks Silicon Valley and Signature, have created jitters throughout the banking sector. “Weakening macroeconomic sentiment continues to dominate across all base metals with a new focus on a potential banking crisis,” said Jeremey Pearce, the International Tin Association’s head of market intelligence and communications said in a March 16 e-mail. However, the Swiss Central Bank announced on March 15 that it would grant a loan of $54 billion. The intention is to strengthen Credit Suisse’s liquidity.
The Site’s Economic Viability Not a Foregone Conclusion
Cornish Metals is now conducting a feasibility study on how many tons South Crofty might prospectively mine. One representative at the company also stated that it is attempting to evaluate prospective concentrate production at the site. The study should end in 2024, just two years after the company secured £40.5 million. These funds were for the evaluation and for constructing and operating a dewatering plant.
With concerns over a surge in tin price mounting, insiders continue to watch the operation closely. However, one industry analyst expressed reservations about South Crofty. That source noted several attempts to restart the operation since it originally shut down in 1998.“I wouldn’t be putting this in my base case just yet,” the analyst told MetalMiner, referring to the certainty of a project to proceed.
He went on to compare costs with dredging a mine in the United Kingdom as opposed to Southeast Asia. “The economics of an underground mine in the United Kingdom compared to dredging in Indonesia are tough. Maybe it depends on by-product credits from lithium [at the mine],” the analyst said. Lithium’s primary use is producing lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and mobile devices.
By Christopher Rivituso
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