Sydney (also Sidney) T. Ryan, policeman, prospector and enterpreneur, arrived in Swaziland in 1888 and when the police force was reconstituted towards the end of that year he was appointed Chief of Police. Some time later he investigated a cassiterite (tin ore) deposit on the farm Athole, 11 km north-west of the town Amsterdam, Mpumalanga, in a region then known as New Scotland. Finding similar ore along the Malotja (also Malotsha) River near Mbabane, Swaziland, he formed the Ryan Company Swaziland, Ltd, and bought two contiguous mining concessions in the area from J. Forbes and D. Forbes respectively. Early in 1893 he dug up two or three tons of ore which was to be sent away for analysis. Ryan also had a share in the wool washing and pressing monopoly, which was, however, expropriated in 1907 without compensation. Meanwhile he was appointed justice of the peace for the Forbes' Reef area, which included Mbabane where he lived, in December 1891. During 1896 his tin mines were in active production and the next year the Ryan Tin Company imported new machinery for washing cassiterite. However, labour shortages and the high cost of transport limited development and his company went into liquidation in 1898.
At Darktown (also known as Darkton), near Mbabane, Ryan found a number of prehistoric stone points in the alluvial tin-bearing gravels. He sent thirteen of these to T. Rupert Jones* in London. Jones described them in "Exhibition of stone implements from Swaziland" in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute in 1898.
By 1897 Ryan was a member of the Geological Society of South Africa. He was still listed as a member, and living in Mbabane, in 1906. In March 1899 he was elected to the first executive committee of the Swaziland Industrial, Mining and Commercial Chamber in Bremersdorp. He returned to Mbabane in March 1905, when he was appointed as manager of Swaziland Tin, Ltd. About 1905 he compiled a Sketch Map of Swaziland: Mineral and Metal Concessions, which was published in Johannesburg. At this time he owned several base metal claims in Swaziland. In 1908 he was proposed for an appointment as justice of the peace for Carolina, in the Transvaal Colony.