Mineral Resource of the Month: Tin

By C. Schuyler Anderson, USGS mineral commodity specialist

PRODUCTION

Cassiterite is a primary source of tin. Credit: public domain. Cassiterite is a primary source of tin. Credit: public domain.

GEOLOGIC OCCURENCE

The main source of tin is cassiterite (SnO2), a tin oxide mineral; cassiterite has been the primary source of tin throughout history. Most of the world’s identified tin resources occur as placer deposits, a large number of which are located along the Southeast Asian tin belt. The remaining resources occur as hydrothermal hard-rock veins. In the United States, tin deposits are rare; there are no known extensive tin placer deposits and the few hard-rock deposits are currently not economically exploitable.


GLOBAL PRODUCTION OF TIN

Credit: K. Cantner, AGI. Credit: K. Cantner, AGI.


WORLD PRODUCTION OF MINED TIN, 2016

Credit: K. Cantner, AGI. Credit: K. Cantner, AGI.

CONSUMPTION

U.S. APPARENT CONSUMPTION OF REFINED TIN

Credit: K. Cantner, AGI. Credit: K. Cantner, AGI.


U.S. IMPORT SOURCES OF REFINED TIN, 2016

Credit: K. Cantner, AGI. Credit: K. Cantner, AGI.


COMMERCIAL USAGE

About half of the tin consumed globally is for solders, mostly in electrical connections between circuits. Other major uses for tin include alloys, such as brass, bronze and pewter; tinplate, which is tin-plated steel used mostly for food packaging; lead-acid batteries; and chemicals used as catalysts and to stabilize polyvinyl chloride plastics.

FUN FACTS

A spool of tin solder. Credit: public domain. A spool of tin solder. Credit: public domain.

  • Pure tin transforms from a metal to a powder-like substance called tin pest below the temperature of 13.2 degrees Celsius. This was initially observed in pipe organs in medieval Europe when the tin pipes would deteriorate at lower temperatures.
  • Molten tin is used in the process of making float glass or flat glass sheets. The liquid glass is poured onto a tub of liquid tin so the glass hardens with a smooth finish.
  • Most flat-panel displays, like those used in cellphones and televisions, contain a thin layer of indium-tin oxide, a material that is unique in being both electrically conductive and optically transparent.

Visit minerals.usgs.gov/minerals for more information

design by K. Cantner and N. Schmidgall, AGI

 Credit: United States Geological Survey. Credit: U.S. Geological Survey

 Credit: The American Geosciences Institute. Credit: American Geosciences Institute

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. Geological Survey

The "Mineral Resource of the Month" column is written by various U.S. Geological Survey mineral commodity specialists. For more information about these and other mineral commodities, visit: USGS Commodity Statistics and Information.

Sunday, August 12, 2018 - 06:00

Did you know ...

The digital edition of EARTH Magazine is a free subscription for members of AGI's Member Societies.  Find out more!

EARTH only uses professional science journalists and scientists to author our content?  In this era of fake news and click-bait, EARTH offers factual and researched journalism. But EARTH is a non-profit magazine, and at least 10 times more people read EARTH than pay for it. As advertising revenues across the media decline, we need your help to ensure that we can continue bringing you the reliable and well-written coverage of earth science you know and love. Our goal is not only to inform our readers, but to inform decision makers across the economic and political spectrum about the science of our planet. So, we need your help. By becoming a subscriber or making a tax-deductible contribution to support EARTH, you can fund our writers and help make sure the world knows about our planet.

Make a contribution

Subscribe