Cassiterite is a durable gemstone with tremendous dispersive fire, especially visible in properly cut pale-colored stones. As the principal ore of tin, it’s also a common mineral. Tin is relatively soft and ductile with crystalline silvery-white color. Tin is mostly used in industrial application in combination with other elements as a protective coating or as an alloy with other metals such as zinc, copper or lead. Tin is combined with copper to yield bronze and with lead to form solder.
Raw materials for production of tin include limestone, silica and carbon (in the form of fuel oil or coal) and mining chemicals directly to the tin mining clients for processing and concentrating cassiterite (SnO2) ores.
In 2006, total worldwide tin mine production was 321,000 tons, and smelter production was 340,000 tons. From its production level of 186,300 tons in 1991, around where it had hovered for the previous decades, production of tin increased 89% to 351,800 tons in 2005. Most of the increase came from China and Indonesia, with the largest spike in 2004–2005, when it increased 23%. While in the 1970s Malaysia was the largest producer, with around a third of world production, it has steadily fallen, and now remains a major smelter and market center. In 2007, the People’s Republic of China was the largest producer of tin, where the tin deposits are concentrated in the southeast Yunnan tin belt, with 43% of the world’s share, followed by Indonesia, with an almost equal share, and Peru at a distant third, reports the USGS.
New deposits to support future production are somewhat limited. A significant new source of tin supply may come from the very high grade (>4% Sn) Alphamin Resources Bisie project in DRC, new discoveries in Myanmar and from Russia, primarily from the Komsomolsk Tin District in Khabarovsk Region. The Sobolinoye (Sable) Deposit, licensed to Sable Tin Resources is one of the main potential suppliers of tin in the near future. The deposit holds over 10 million tonnes at 0.88% tin (93000 tonnes) and 0.53% Copper. The resources were registered in 1987 and a feasibility study prepared in 1993 by a subsidiary of Norilsk Nickel but despite its vicinity to infrastructure a mine was never constructed due to economic and political reasons. The private Rusolovo holding company is also another potential major supplier as it ramps up production from its high grade (1.5% Sn) Pravoumirskoye mine, which is overcoming infrastructure obstacles. Another is the historical lower grade (0.6% Sn) Festivalnoye deposit which has recently re-commenced production; ore from this is being processed at the Gorniy processing plant; a third Russian source would be the Khinganskoye tailings project in the Jewish Autonomous Republic.