Photographer: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg

Hard-to-Get Ore Means Tin Supply From Top Exporter to Shrink

Updated on
  • Output, exports may drop to 60,000 tons, association predicts
  • Prices have rallied in London on outlook for global shortage

Tin output and exports from Indonesia will probably tumble this year as producers in the world’s largest shipper struggle to obtain sufficient supplies of raw ore, according to Jabin Sufianto, head of the Association of Indonesian Tin Exporters.

Refined output may drop to about 60,000 metric tons as overseas sales decline to the same level, Jabin said in an interview on Monday in Bali, ahead of comments to an industry conference. The forecast output figure compares with supply of 67,350 tons in 2015 and would be the lowest since 2002, according to data from the World Bureau of Metal Statistics.

Tin has rallied the most among base metals this year after zinc as global demand for the metal that’s used as solder in electronic devices outstrips supply. While smelters in Southeast Asia’s largest economy are increasing the prices paid to ore miners to attract raw material, their efforts don’t seem too successful, according to Jabin.

“Mine production and supply are very bad,” said Jabin, whose grouping represents more than 20 producers. “Ore is still hard to get,” he said.

Tin futures gained as much as 0.8 percent $19,255 a ton on the London Metal Exchange and traded at $19,160 at 4:28 p.m. in Singapore. They’ve surged 32 percent in 2016, rebounding from three annual declines, and rose to $19,670 earlier this month, the highest price since January 2015.

Prices have rallied as shipments of refined cargoes from Indonesia have trailed last year’s volumes. Even after picking up in August, exports over the first eight months totaled 38,343 tons, 16 percent less than a year ago, according to Bloomberg calculations.

The global market had a deficit of 7,200 tons in the first half, according to data from the World Bureau of Metal Statistics. Stockpiles in warehouses tracked by the LME dropped to 3,835 tons last week, the lowest level since March, after tumbling 22 percent in August.

Refined supplies from Indonesia may total about 60,000 tons this year, according to Peter Kettle, markets manager at industry group ITRI, who said ore supplies may have been crimped by the weather. “You have a very wet year this year and very dry one last year,” he said in an interview.