INDUSTRY BULLETIN: Tin may be the surprising Technology Metal of the future

March 27, 2018

At a recent Lithium and Battery Materials Conference in Perth, Australia, Andrew Latham, Head of Rio Tinto Ventures, presented the chart below from a study done for Rio Tinto by a research group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (“MIT”). The study ranked various metals and minerals most impacted by new technologies using a number of criteria. Many people may have been surprised to see tin identified as the metal most impacted by new technology.

Metals Most Impacted by New Technology

Source: MIT, per Rio Tinto

Uses of Tin

Tin is perhaps better known for its historical use in tin cans than in modern technology; however, usage of tin in coating lead, zinc and steel to prevent corrosion (i.e. tin plating) is now the second highest usage of tin worldwide. Tin is primarily used in lead-free solders for electronic circuit boards and microchips – accounting for 50% of global tin consumption.

Tin is expected to increasingly contribute to modern, clean technologies including lithium-ion batteries for autonomous and electric vehicles. For example, battery researchers are developing solid-state batteries utilizing ceramic electrolytes (versus liquid) for improved safety and performance. Silicon is a potentially attractive anode material due to its high potential capacity and abundance in nature. Recent research has shown that adding tin to the silicon-based anode enhances its performance, creating the potential for tin to be a major contributor to the next generation of lithium batteries.

Further, researchers at the Texas Material Institute have demonstrated a tin-aluminium alloy can be produced that is cheaper and double the charge capacity of today’s copper-graphite anodes for lithium ion batteries.

The greatest growth potential for tin is likely to be found in these and other automotive battery applications. As of 2016, use of tin in lead-acid batteries approached 30 kt and, supported by further growth in vehicles sales and the further substitution of antimony, use of tin in this application is expected to exceed 50 kt by 2027 (Roskill).

Finally, indium-tin-oxide is used as a glass coating due to its electrical conductivity and optical transparency and continues to find application in renewable energy and communications, including flat panel displays, smart windows, thin film photovoltaics (solar panels) and organic light emitting diodes lights.

Tin Markets

LME tin prices in February ranged from $21,150 to $21,730. The average LME 3-month tin price was $21,549 per tonne during February 2018, up 4.6% from January (ITRI). Tin demand has been steady over the last few years, but it seems ready to emerge as a key advanced material needed for new applications related to rapidly growing and expanding high tech and cleantech applications.

Avalon is well positioned to supply this new demand from its East Kemptville Tin Project in Nova Scotia where the Company is continuing to progress its re-development model for this brownfields site, which involves initial low-cost recovery of tin concentrates from waste materials left on site from historic mining operations.  

For questions or feedback, please email Avalon at [email protected]

About Avalon Advanced Materials Inc. (TSX: AVL & OTCQX: AVLNF)

Avalon Advanced Materials Inc. is a Canadian mineral development company focused on technology metals and minerals. The Company has three advanced stage projects, all 100%-owned, providing investors with exposure to lithium, tin and indium, as well as rare earth elements, tantalum, niobium, and zirconium. Avalon is currently focusing on its Separation Rapids Lithium Project, Kenora, ON and its East Kemptville Tin-Indium Project, Yarmouth, NS. Social responsibility and environmental stewardship are corporate cornerstones.