One of the most mineralized places on the planet, Tasmania is currently a favoured destination for those hunting a particular electric vehicle (EV) technology related mineral. While mineral “rushes” in most Australian states trace back to the hunt for gold in the 1800s, in Tasmania it was largely tin that attracted miners to the island.
Centuries later, it is again tin that is attracting the interest of mineral explorers and developers. Tasmania has a long history of prosperous mining industries that have yielded rich mineral wealth.
According to the University of Tasmania, mining began in the Australian state long before the arrival of the first European settlers in 1803, with local Aboriginal people engaged in the small-scale mining of flints, salt and ochre. However, it was the discovery of the rich Mount Bischoff tin deposit in 1871 that changed the mining landscape, with Western Tasmania becoming the focus of explorers, prospectors and track cutters.
Mount Bischoff started a prospecting boom throughout Tasmania that lasted 30 years. The discovery of tin near Mount Cameron in 1874 caused a flurry of prospecting activity along the Ringarooma Valley and on the Blue Tier. Within three years, mines had been established at Branxholm, Derby, Bradshaws Creek (Pioneer), Weldborough, South Mount Cameron, and Gladstone.
The most significant mine, Brothers’ Home at Derby, was established in 1876, and became the rich Briseis Tin Mine, which operated until 1956, producing an estimated 20,800 tons of tin oxide. Known as Tasmania’s tin province, the northeast generated substantial wealth for almost a century.
Meanwhile, the first western deposit of tin found was the Heemskirk Tinfield in 1876 and the area is still attracting major mining activity.
Tasmanian mining boom
The state’s government notes that mining and minerals processing sector was the shining star in Tasmania’s record international merchandise export figure of $4.23 billion for the 12-months to October 2021. 64.1% of Tasmania’s exports value in this period were non-ferrous metals, metallic ores and metal scraps, with the value of metallic ores and metal scraps (like tin, iron ore, copper, zinc, gold and manganese) increasing by 64.6% and non-ferrous metals increasing by 31.1% when compared with the previous year.
China remains the state’s major export market at $1.63B (up 6.7%). Hong Kong and China combined are estimated to account for 74% of exports of metallic ores and metal scraps, and 17% of non-ferrous metals over the period. Current Tasmanian government priorities for this sector include:
- Attracting and facilitating new investment in both mining and mineral processing
- Providing adequate infrastructure for mining operations
- Maintaining a world-class regulatory system for exploration and mining
- Assisting industry in the acquisition of data and critical skills
The Tasmanian government highlighted its support for the mining sector recently when it announced 16 successful projects will share in approximately A$780,000 in grants from the fifth round of Exploration Drilling Grant Initiative (EDGI) funding. EDGI is a Tasmanian government initiative to increase the level of greenfield drilling in the state.
The aim is to facilitate discovery of the new projects which are necessary for the long-term future of Tasmania’s mining industry. Interestingly, ten of the companies which applied for the funding have nominated tin and tungsten as target minerals.
Tin as an EV metal
Now, with tin considered a critical mineral by numerous countries – and an important component in the shift to the forecast EV domination – the “Apple Isle” is once again in the focus of the global mining sector for its tin riches.
Tasmania’s tin riches have attracted several new players and led to an acceleration of activities. Some of the companies making headlines include:
ASX-listed Venture Minerals Ltd (ASX: VMS) has received strong market backing for its plans to develop the large Mount Lindsay tin project. The company recently received firm commitments from sophisticated, professional and institutional investors, and current shareholders to raise A$5.5M, which it will use to expedite drilling at Mount Lindsay and to conduct a feasibility study for the project.
In announcing the successful capital raise, Venture’s managing director, Andrew Radonjic, said the “time for tin is now”.
“This placement allows Venture to accelerate the updated underground feasibility study at Mount Lindsay as part of our strategy of becoming an ESG-compliant tin producer in the near future, whilst continuing the search for the next tin discovery in Australia’s premier tin district.
“Tin is an EV metal and Mount Lindsay is one at the largest undeveloped tin deposits in the world that also hosts a substantial Tungsten resource.”
The Mount Lindsay Project is already classified by the Australian government as a critical minerals project with an advanced tin-tungsten asset and one of the largest undeveloped tin projects in the world, containing in excess of 80,000 tonnes of tin metal.
Elementos Ltd’s (ASX: ELT) Cleveland Tin Project is located 80km southwest of Burnie in the mineral-rich northwest region of Tasmania. It is a historic underground mine site boasting excellent power, water, and transport infrastructure.
The JORC geological resource for Cleveland contains 7.47mt at 0.75% Sn and 0.3% Cu (Indicated: 6.23mt at 0.75% Sn and 0.3% Cu, Inferred: 1.24mt at 0.76% Sn and 0.3% Cu).
Cleveland features a large exploration lease surrounded by existing critical infrastructure.
A strategic review of the Cleveland Tin Project has commenced to re-assess the techno-economic possibilities of restarting the operation amid high tin, copper, and tungsten prices.
Metals X Ltd (ASX: MLX) has a 50% equity interest in the Renison Tin Operation in Tasmania through its 50% stake in the Bluestone Mines Tasmania Joint Venture (BMTJV).
Renison is the largest tin producer in Australia, one of the world’s largest and highest-grade tin mines and, through the Metals X equity interest, one of the few publicly held major tin projects in the world.
Mining at Renison has made important contributions to the regional and state economy of Tasmania for over 50 years. It is a major employer on the West Coast of Tasmania, with approximately 50% of employees living locally and 50% in the Renison camp in Zeehan.
Stellar Resources Ltd’s (ASX: SRZ) 100%-owned tin projects have an enviable location within the well-established mining district on the west coast of Tasmania, with access to established infrastructure including nearby water and renewable power, access to the port of Burnie 150km to the north via sealed highway for export of concentrate, and a competitive local market for services, mining and processing inputs and labour.
Stellar’s flagship Heemskirk Tin Project is just 18km to the southwest of the Renison tin mine. Including Renison, there are five major underground metal mines, three of which are operating, within 30km of the Heemskirk Tin Project.
The company recently announced that it had identified a large magnetic and conductive target at Severn South within the Heemskirk Tin Project through a high resolution heliborne magnetic survey.
Executive Director Gary Fietz, said the large magnetic high is centred to the south of Severn, the largest of the Heemskirk Tin Project deposits.
“Severn is already the largest of the four tin deposits comprising the Heemskirk Tin Project, the second-highest grade undeveloped tin resource in the world,” Mr Fietz said.
“The South Severn Magnetic and Conductive Target recently modelled by Stellar’s geophysical consultants, Mira Geoscience and consulting geophysicist, Jovan Silic, along with observations from the Phase 1 drilling programme currently in progress, highlights the significant upside potential of the Severn tin deposit, which remains open at depth and along strike.”
“Stellar plans to drill the South Severn Magnetic and Conductive target towards the end of the drilling programme currently underway.”
With a surge of new activity underway, Tasmania is well placed to retain its position as one of the world’s premier tin development destinations.