Until the late 1970s, Malaysia was the world's premier producer of tin, supplying some 40 per cent of the world's tin. In the 80’s due to the exhaustion of tin and a fall in tin prices, Malaysia was no longer a premier tin producer. However, bauxite and copper continued to contribute to the mining sector in the early 1970s. Malaysia no longer produces copper and silver (as a byproduct of copper mining) because the country’s only copper mine the Mamut Mine near Ranau, Sabah, ceased operations in October 1999. As much as 70 per cent of the industry remained under foreign control. This was a legacy of the British colonial era; many British firms, which had arrived in the 19th century to exploit Malaysian mineral resources, had not departed yet.
Malaysia is endowed with over 33 different mineral types, comprising metallic, non-metallic and energy minerals, worth several billion dollars in economic potential. However, despite the continuing good global demand and high prices for most metals and minerals in recent years the country’s mineral resource industry continues to remain sluggish. There was generally a lack of exploration, mine development and capacity expansion in the local industry thus providing the great opportunity to those who seek to venture into this area.
The metallic mineral sub-sector produce minerals such as tin, gold, bauxite, iron-ore, ilmenite and other associated minerals as by-products of tin and gold mining such as zircon, monazite, rutile, struverite and silver. The non-metallic or industrial mineral sub-sector produce limestone, clays, kaolin, silica, sand and gravel, aggregates, feldspar and mica. Only coal is produced in the energy mineral sub-sector.
The Malaysian mineral industry has undoubtedly been a major contributor towards the economic, social and industrial development of the country. The value of minerals produced in Malaysia in 2007 was RM2.53 billion, an increase of 15 per cent from RM2.20 billion produced in 2006. The non-metallic sector remained the mainstay of the country’s mineral resource industry. It continued to provide the dominant share in the overall mineral production. This sector registered a production value of RM1.95 billion in 2007. The production value for the metallic and energy mineral sectors in 2007 were RM0.46 billion and RM0.12 billion, respectively.
The mineral resource industry in Malaysia is fairly labour-intensive. Direct workers employed at end 2007 are estimated at some 43,000. In addition, there are a large number of indirect workers employed by contractors engaged in mining activities.
Production of mineral fuels includes coal, natural gas and crude petroleum. Production of processed mineral products includes cement, LNG, nitrogen fertilizer materials (ammonia and urea), refined petroleum products, crude steel, titanium dioxide pigment, and refined tin. Malaysia has large resources of tin and such tin-associated minerals as ilmenite, monazite and struverite, which is a columbium (niobium)-tantalum-bearing mineral.
Malaysia’s tin reserves ranked as the world’s third largest.. Among the identified mineral resources, a greater portion of reserves of barite, bauxite, bentonite, clays, copper, gold, iron ore, limestone, silica, and tin and its associated minerals have already been developed and exploited.
Malaysia is the world top ten producers for refined tin, rare earths and mined tin. The mining sector, which continued to play an important role in supplying basic raw materials to the construction and manufacturing sectors for Malaysia’s economic development, remained important to the country’s economy. According to the Malaysian Department of Statistics, the mining sector contributed 6.3% to Malaysia’s GDP compared with 5.9% in 2006.