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The International Strategic Minerals Inventory tin inventory contains records for 56 major tin deposits and districts in 21 countries. These countries accounted for 98 percent of the 10 million metric tons of tin produced in the period 1934-87. Tin is a good alloying metal and is generally nontoxic, and its chief uses are as tinplate for tin cans and as solder in electronics.
The 56 locations consist of 39 lode deposits and 17 placers and contain almost 7.5 million metric tons of tin in identified economic resources (R1E) and another 1.5 million metric tons of tin in other resource categories. Most of these resources are in major deposits that have been known for over a hundred years. Lode deposits account for 44 percent of the R1E and 87 percent of the resources in other categories. Placer deposits make up the remainder.
Low-income and middle-income countries, including Bolivia and Brazil and countries along the Southeast Asian Tin Belt such as Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia account for 91 percent of the R1E resources of tin and for 61 percent of resources in other categories. The United States has less than 0.05 percent of the world's tin R1E in major deposits. Available data suggest that the Soviet Union may have about 4 percent of resources in this category.
The industrial market economy countries of the United States, Japan, Federal Republic of Germany, and the United Kingdom are major consumers of tin, whereas the major tin-producing countries generally consume little tin. The Soviet Union and China are both major producers and consumers of tin. At the end of World War II, the four largest tin-producing countries (Bolivia, the Belgian Congo (Zaire), Nigeria, and Malaysia) produced over 80 percent of the world's tin.
In 1986, the portion of production from the four largest producers (Malaysia, Brazil, Soviet Union, Indonesia) declined to about 55 percent, while the price of tin rose from about $1,500 to $18,000 per metric ton. In response to tin shortages during World War II, the United States began stockpiling refined tin metal from approximately 1946 to 1953 to ensure a strategic supply in the event of another war.
Since World War II, there have been six International Tin Agreements to maintain price and supply stability between tin producers and consumers. Artificially high prices set by the tin-producing members and a tin glut brought on by independent producers like Brazil caused the collapse of the world tin market in late 1985; the International Tin Council exhausted its credit to support the market price.
By the year 2025, Bolivia's underground lode mines will likely have insignificant production, as will those in the United Kingdom. Tin mines in the Southeast Asian Tin Belt will still be active. Brazil, which has risen from the eighth-ranked tin-producing country in 1982 to the largest producer in 1988, will likely be a major influence on world tin production well into the 21st century. The future mining activity of deposits presently inactive in Australia is impossible to predict.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
International strategic minerals inventory summary report; tin