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.
Malaysia’s mineral resource industry (excluding oil and gas) experienced further positive development in 2012. Approvals granted on applications for exploration licenses, prospecting permits, mining leases and their renewals also saw further growth. As a consequence, there was a further increase in the level of new exploration and mining activities as well as capacity expansion in the industry during the year under review.
Whilst the global mineral resource industry experienced sluggish growth in 2012, Malaysia’s domestic mineral industry was very resilient. The total value of major minerals produced in Malaysia during the year under review is estimated to have increased by some 9.76 per cent to RM6.86 billion from RM6.25 billion in 2011.
Malaysia’s endowment of mineral resources comprise metallic, non-metallic, and energy minerals. The types of metallic minerals currently being mined are 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 types of non-metallic or industrial minerals produced include limestone, clays, kaolin, silica, sand and gravel, aggregates, feldspar and mica. The type of energy mineral being mined is only coal. The value of non-metallic mineral produced in 2012 is estimated at RM3.28 billion, whilst the value of metallic and energy minerals produced in 2012 is estimated at RM3.14 billion and RM0.44 billion, respectively.
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.