China currently produces around 90% of the world supply of tungsten, an essential metal in a number of applications including alloying of high-speed steels and superalloys, and in the production of tungsten carbide metalworking tools. The increasing demand for tungsten in recent years has led to tight export controls by China, and this in turn has seen significant rises in both tungsten APT and the refined tungsten carbide powder.
The price of tungsten APT is currently around $455 per tonne – up from $340 per tone in January, and the price of tungsten carbide powder (3 – 4 micron) has risen from $43 per kg to $56 per kg in the same period (www.metal-pages.com).
According to a report in Tungsten Investing News (June 29, 2011) there are only two publicly traded companies mining tungsten outside of China. One of these – Malaga Inc. is said to be producing 400 metric ton units (mtu) of tungsten ore per day at its ‘Pasto Bueno’ mine in Northern Peru, which corresponds to around 3 tons of W on a daily basis, or 1160 tons of W per year. This is almost exclusively supplied to Global Tungsten and Powders Corp. based in Towanda, PA, USA.
The other company is North American Tungsten which resumed mining of tungsten at its Cantung Mine in the Northwestern Territories, Canada, in October 2010. Both companies are benefiting from the sharp price rises of tungsten metal making mining of the metal profitable.
Other companies working on exploring their tungsten deposits include: Playfair Mining Ltd (Canada), Wolf Minerals (UK), and Woulfe Mining (South Korea).