(Corrects to imports in headline)
* China's imports from Indonesia fall sharply on new rules
* Boosts shipments of tin ore and concentrate from Myanmar
* Myanmar a small player, but may grow long-term - ITRI
By Melanie Burton
SINGAPORE, Sept 9 China's tin industry is
turning to Myanmar to help plug a gap in the supply of raw
materials after new trading rules in the world's top exporter
Indonesia squeezed its major source of refined tin.
China, the world's top metals consumer, has more than
doubled its imports of tin ore and concentrates from Myanmar
this year, shoring up an alternative source of the metal used
mainly for solder in its vast electronics industry.
Pulling in more ore from Myanmar -- still a relatively small
player -- will add to China's efforts to source tin from
Bolivia, Japan, Malaysia and LME stockpiles, and could crimp
sales by Indonesia in the long-term, said industry
"Myanmar isn't going to solve China's problems - Indonesia
is the dominant exporter in the world," said Stephen Briggs of
BNP Paribas in London. "But China is clearly trying to diversify
its sources, whether it's tin or anything else. It certainly
isn't a great thing for Indonesia."
China has relied on Indonesia for the bulk of its tin
imports, taking more than 15,000 tonnes last year, but sales
have slumped since the Southeast Asian nation ruled that
producers could only sell ingots of the highest purity, a move
aimed at boosting the value of its exports.
The Indonesian market has been further muddied by government
attempts to ensure all of its tin is traded through a local
exchange, a move which has yet to gain traction with customers,
and its biggest exporter has halted shipments.
China's imports from Indonesia fell 72 percent in July from
a year earlier to just 484 tonnes of refined tin.
By contrast, tin ore shipped from Myanmar across the border
for processing in Yunnan, China's key tin producing province,
more than tripled in July to 8,392 tonnes, China trade data
shows. Imports for the first seven months of the year are
already more than total for the whole of 2012.
The Myanmar figures are for tin ore and concentrate and do
not specify tin content, so it is not possible to work out how
much tin would be produced from the increased exports.
Traders put Myanmar's total production at the "low
single-digit thousands" of tonnes, compared with 100,000 tonnes
China also produces about 100,000 tonnes of tin a year, but
faces a shortfall of 50,000-60,000 tonnes, which it meets
through recycling and through imports of unrefined ore and
refined tin, said Peter Kettle of global industry group ITRI.
Chinese buying could help speed development of Myanmar's
fragmented industry as political changes lead to increased
"We could see Myanmar emerging in the long run as quite an
important tin producer," said Kettle.
"There is quite a bit of interest in the long-term with the
changes in the political regime and encouragement of
international investment," he said.
Traders are also eyeing the country but say China is likely
to be the dominant buyer for the near future.
"We make some efforts to get into that country but it's not
easy," said a source at an international trading house.
"There is a lot of artisanal mining there. You need to be
prepared to go into the country and pay people in cash and
arrange logistics yourself, and I'm sure the Chinese are able to
do that," he said.
(Additional reporting by Aung Hla Tun in Yangon; Editing by