Saturday, 21 January 2012

From the MEI Archives - Ipoh, 1988

From 1956 the price of tin had been regulated by a series of international agreements between producers and customers under the auspices of the International Tin Council (ITC), which mirrored the highly successful policy of De Beers in controlling the gem diamond trade. Price stability was sought through selling from the ITC’s huge stockpiles when the price rose and buying into the stockpile when the price fell.

From the mid-1970s, however, the price of tin was driven artificially higher at a time of world recession, expanding production and falling consumption, and in October 1985 the buffer stock manager announced that the ITC could no longer finance the purchase of tin to prop up the price, as it had run out of funds, owing millions of pounds to the LME traders. This announcement caused near panic, the tin price fell drastically and the LME halted all further dealings. In 1986 many of the world’s tin mines, including the once thriving Cornish operations, were forced to close down due to the depressed tin price, and prices continued to fall in subsequent years.

In October 1988, the International Symposium on Research and Development in Extractive Metallurgy of Tin and Related Metals (ISRADEMT) was held in the tin mining town of Ipoh in Malaysia, to look for ways forward for the industry. I presented a paper showing how tin operations must seek to diversify, something which is still being attempted at South Crofty, the last of the Cornish tin mines to close. Although it was a very enjoyable conference, I have doubts that it achieved a great deal. The tin industry never really recovered from the 1985 crash, and only the huge alluvial dredging operations, with very low operating costs per tonne, managed to survive. Below I am with conference delegates visiting the giant tin dredge at the Malaysian Mining Corporation, Ipoh.

1 comment:

  1. Will Tin ever wake up from this deep slumber? I think that research and development institutions can steer the workings on the large volumes of dumps at the folded tin mines in preparedness for the resuscitation of tin mining in the near future.We should not give up on tin mining.


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