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TIN MINING

Tin is a silvery malleable metallic element that resists corrosion. Tin has moderate health benefits and is used to make many products including whistles, signs, ceilings, toys, and containers. Within the Pilkington process tin is used to make window glass. Together tin and lead are alloyed to make pewter and solder. Crystalline tin-niobium is an alloy that is superconductive at a very low heat and is used in the construction of superconductive magnets. Tin is found mostly in cassiterite which can be found in Malaysia, Bolivia, Indonesia, Zaire, Thailand, and Nigeria. These places supply most of the world's tin.

The tin mining industry was once a major contributor to the Malaysian economy. Indeed, Kuala Lumpur has its origin in tin mining. In 1979, malaysia was producing almost 63,000 tonnes, accounting for 31 percent of world output. It was the world's leading producer and employed more than 41,000 people. By 1994, the country's production had fallen to 6,500 tonnes, with only 3,000 people employed in the industry. Whilst, Malaysia's production fell by 90 percent over the last 15 years, global output fell by only 20 percent. Today, the country hardly exports tin as production is used mostly for the domestic electronic and tinplating industries. The collapse of the tin industry is due to exhaustion of tin deposits, the low tin prices and the high operating costs. But perhaps too much was done to protect it rather than to obselete the industry.

[ A. ] History Of Tin Mining In Malaysia

Tin mining is one of the oldest industries in Malaysia. The tin mining started since 1820s in Malaysia after the arrival of Chinese. The Chinese settled in Perak and started tin mines. Their leader was the famous Chung Ah Qwee.Their arrival contributed to the needed labour and hence the growth of the tin mining industry. By 1872, there were about 40,000 miners in Malaysia, mostly Cantonese and Hakka. In Selangor, tin mining started in 1824. There were about 10,000 Chinese in the state. The majority of them were Hakka. Kuala Lumpur, like Selangor was similarly developed by the hardworking miners.

Tin was the major pillars of the Malaysian economy. Tin occurs chiefly as alluvial deposits in the foothills of the Peninsular on the western side. The most important area is the Kinta Valley, which includes the towns of Ipoh, Gopeng, Kampar and Batu Gajah in the State of Perak. In fact, alluvial tin is mined in a belt of country stretching from Kedah into the Kinta Valley and along the foothills of Perak, Selangor and Johore. This part of the tin belt and includes the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, which is the centre of another rich tin-mining area.

The expansion of tin mining began in the 1870s, with the commencement of pit-working of tin laden sands in valleys all the way down the West Coast region of the Peninsular. In the Western Peninsular, chaotic political conditions involving war arose between organized Chinese miners, Malay sultans, minor rulers and villagers. This chaos was the formal precipitating cause of the British "forward movement" in the Peninsular, which culminated in the establishment of colonial control over the main tin mining Malay states in 1874. Stable political conditions then enabled a few large Chinese entrepreneurs to establish themselves much more securely, recruited labor more readily and imported pumping machinery to facilitate what was still essentially a manual industry, digging holes and extracting the ore by hand.

Growing industrial demand for tin, coupled with the discovery of large and rich tin deposits in Larut and Kinta in the state of Perak in the early 19th century led to the disputes among the Malay rulers, large scale immigration of Chinese labour which in turn gave rise to Chinese investment, British intervention and domination and finally, injection of foreign, mainly British capital and technology into the Peninsular.

The British later directed Sir Andrew Clarke to develop a communication system, hence state roads were constructed between the principal mining towns. The big step into a modern system of communication was taken in 1885 when a 12.8km stretch of railway line was laid from Taiping, which was the distribution centre for the Larut tin fields, and its port - Port Weld. The first trunk road in Peninsular Malaysia was routed through the main tin mining towns of Seremban, Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Taiping. Thus it can be seen that the pioneering work of developing Malaysia was carried out through tin mining. The main purpose of building the communication system was the transfer tin and other resources gathered from the states to ports, which will later be shipped back to the United Kingdom.

Tin which is the entrepot trade of the colony have been the source of the prosperity of its upper classes and the home investors and these ownership is shared primarily between the British and the Chinese with the former holding the major share. Towards the end of the last century the British began breaking in on the monopoly of tin by the Chinese and the trend has been increasingly toward British control. Before the war, the British controlled only a quarter of the tin, but with the introduction of the colossal dredging machine after the war British production began to mount sharply until in 1929 which is more than half of the total. By 1931 it has risen to 65% of the total. The hand-worked open-cast in Chinese mines are unable to compete with the British dredges. Under the spur of competition the Chinese have made considerable advance in merchandising their mines, but ther are lack of capital for the installation of dredges. From 1928 to 1933, the labor force engaged in tin mining was cut from 119,550 to 51,980. This decline is due to the introduction of dredges. However, the labor force rose again to 64,183 in 1934.

By 1883, Malaysia had become the largest tin producer in the world. By the end of the 19th century, it was supplying about 55% of the world's tin compared with the 1992 about 30%.

[ B. ] Uses Of Tin

Tin is an important commodity in international trade, but it does not naturally as a metal. Tin is used in hundreds of industrial processes throughout the world. Tin is widely used in many industries such as in food packaging,culinary equipment, electronics, tin chemicals, plumbing solders, engineering alloys, pewter and bronze in music and the arts, dental amalgams, anti-corrosion and engineering coatings, wine capsules and fire retardants.

Food packaging and culinary equipment

Tin plate is the primary material for food canning and shares the beverage can market with alluminium. It is also commonly used in bakeware and food storage containers such as biscuit tins, tea caddies etc. Until the advent of stainless steel, much food preparation machinery was tin plated to prevent corrosion and adulteration from the base metals and even today items such as copper pans and hand mincers are still heavily tinned for the same reasons.

Electronics

The principal used of tin in electronics is in the used of solders for the joining of electronic components. But there are many other varied uses in the general electronics field

Tin chemicals

The used of tin chemicals is as PVC stabilisers, but besides this they are used in a very wide range of applications, for example as polymerisation catalysts in silicone resins and polyurethane foam manufacture and in ceramic pigments.

Plumbing solders

Plumbing solders containing lead are being replaced by safe tin-silver (usually 96.5 percent tin /3.5 percent silver) or tin-copper(97 to 99 percent tin/ 1 to 3 percent copper) alloys, particularly for drinking water systems.


Engineering alloys

Tin's unique properties is used as an alloy with other metals make it a useful material for a wide range of engineering applications.

Pewter and bronze in music and the arts Pewter (an alloy containing about 92 percent tin with small amounts of other metals added for strength) has long been known for its decorative apperance and ease of working as a craft metal. Tin bronzes (alloys of copper with 5-20 percent tin) are renowned for their use in art castings and as bell metals.

Dental amalgams

Dental amalgam contains about 13 percent tin by weight together with silver and mercury. More than 7000 million dental fillings using this amalgam are implanted in the USA every year. Mercury-free alternative dental filling materials with double the amount of tin are under development.

Anti-corrosion and engineering coatings Tin and tin-alloy coatings are widely used in the manufacture of bearings and in many kinds of machinery and fabricated parts both for their anti-corrosion and lubricant properties.

Wine capsules A tin coating acted as a barrier layer in traditional lead-based capsules to prevent contact between the lead and teh wine. Tin-lead capsules are now being replaced with other materials but the most prestigious and closest in feel to the traditional capsules, are made from almost pure tin.

Fire retardants

The smoke suppression properties of tin in the form of zinc stannates make it a desirable replacement for fire retardant agents such as antimony trioxide.

Tin is important in the production of the common alloys bronze (tin and copper) and solder (tin and lead). Tin is also used as an alloy with titanium in the aerospace industry and as an ingredieent in some insecticides. The United States imports more than one-fifth of the average annual world production of tin. Most of the world's tin is produced by Malaysia, Brazil, Indonesia, Thailand, Bolivia and Australia.

[ C. ] The Malaysian Tin Industry

The tin mining industry was once a major contributor to the national economy. In 1979, Malaysia was producing almost 63,000 tonnes, accounting for 31 percent of world output. It was the world's leading producer and employed more than 40,000 people.

By 1984, competition from new lower-cost mines in Brazil had already led to a sharp reduction in both Malaysian and Indonesian output, but the world price was sustained until October 1985, when it crashed by 50 percent. The Malaysian industry then shrank rapidly, surpassed in 1988 by Indonesia, which continued to support its mines with large subsidies.

Malaysian production, however, has declined further and, for the first time, tin mining rates no mention in the current national plan.

[ D. ] Methods of Mining

Malaysia has used several types of mining methods in the tin mining industry. There are dredging, gravel pump, open cast, dulang washing and underground mining.

Dredging is one of the more common method of tin mining. It can be applied on low-lying areas with alluvial tin deposits. A dredge is a like platform which floats on an artificial lake. Dredging can be used to mine deposits found near the surface in areas prone to flooding. It is an efficient method of mining aluvial tin and is very expensive.

Gravel Pump is the most common method of extracting alluvial tin deposit in Malaysia. This method involves spraying high-pressure jets of water on rocks containing tin ore and breaking them up. The tin-bearing material is then washed dowm a depression called a sump. A pump brings the material up a palong, a gently sloping wooden structure which separates tin from other materials. The procedure of extracting tin is simple. As the tin-bearing materials flow down the palong, wooden bars across the palong, called riffles traps the heavier iron ore, leaving the rest of the material to be dumped as tailings.

Open cast mining is a method of digging the tin-bearing material from a surface with mechanical shovels. This type of mining is suitable for mining tin in stony grounds. In 1994, there were 9 such mines in Perak. It contributed to about 21% of its total production.

Dulang Washing is practised by small mines in Perak, most of them are run by a family without employees. This is a simple method of extracting alluvial tin in streams by panning. A dulang is a wooden pan of diameter 50cm. tin-bearing material from under the stream is scooped into a dulang and the dulang is twirled just below water level. The lighter sand particles are washed over the edge of the dulang while tin ore remains at the bottom. The dulang washers normally sell their products to larger mines.

Underground mines are established in areas with promising ore deposits. The shaft is the primary vertical channel through which people and ore are transported in and out of the mine. The miners' elevator is called a cage, and the ore reaches the surfaces via a car called a skip. A ventilation system near the main shaft ensures that the miners receive fresh air and prevents the accumulation of dangerous gases. A system of crosscuts connects the ore body to the main shaft at several levels, and these levels are, in turn connected by openings called raises. Stopes are the chambers where the ore is broken and mined.