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Tungsten, also known as wolfram, is a metal with many uses. It is commonly used to produce electrical wires and heating and electrical contacts, but is also used in welding, heavy metal alloys, heat sinks, turbine blades and as a substitute for lead in bullets.

According to the most recent US Geological Survey (USGS) report on the metal, world tungsten production reached 87,000 metric tons (MT) in 2015, an increase over 2014's 86,800 MT. The market remained in oversupply, putting pressure on prices, leading a number of Chinese producers to announce plans to reduce their output and forcing Canada's only tungsten mine into care-and-maintenance mode.

However, that didn't stop a fair amount of new production from entering the market. A mine in Vietnam continued to ramp up production, while new mines opened in the UK and Zimbabwe. Here’s a brief overview of the 10 countries that produced the most tungsten last year.


1. China

Mine production: 71,000 MT

China is the largest producer of tungsten, accounting for over 80 percent of the world’s total output, and is also the world's largest consumer of the metal. A 2014 report on the tungsten market predicts that tungsten supply growth will eventually slow due to China's extensive control over the space, but for now, tungsten production isn't letting up. In 2015, the country produced 71,000 MT of tungsten, the same amount as the previous year.

2. Vietnam

Mine production: 5,000 MT

Vietnam jumped two spots on the list to become the world's second-largest tungsten producer for 2015. The country produced 5,000 MT in 2015 compared to 4,000 MT in 2014. Privately owned Masan Resources owns the Vietnam-based Nui Phao mine, the largest tungsten mine outside of China. Since Masan acquired the mine in 2010, it has seen consistent growth.

3. Russia 

Mine production: 2,500 MT

Russia produced slightly less tungsten in 2015 than it did in 2014, dropping to 2,500 MT last year from 2,800 MT the year previous. According to MetalBulletin (subscription), tungsten production in the country was badly affected by falling prices in 2015. Denis Gorbachev, director of business development at Russia's Wolfram Company, told the publication that no new mining projects have started in the country, with existing ones being slowed or put on hold.


4. Canada

Mine production: 1,700 MT

Canada's tungsten production dropped drastically in 2015 to just 1,700 MT, down from 2,340 MT a year earlier. As mentioned above, Canadian tungsten output was hampered when North American Tungsten (TSXV:NTC) was forced to put its Cantung mine into care-and-maintenance mode last October. Cantung is one of the largest tungsten mines outside of China. As CBC News reported at the time, the company is aiming to resume production in the summer of 2016.

5. Bolivia

Mine production: 1,200 MT

Despite moves to promote the tungsten industry in the country, Bolivia's tungsten production remained fairly flat at 1,200 MT for 2015. The country put out 1,250 MT a year earlier.

In May 2013, Kennametal (NYSE:KMT) acquired tungsten processing operations in Bolivia, also securing related material-sourcing agreements. The company hopes the move will eventually allow it to expand global growth while avoiding risks associated with owning mining operations.

6. Rwanda

Mine production: 1,000 MT

Despite the tightening regulations surrounding conflict minerals, in recent years Rwanda's tungsten output has remained fairly robust. The country produced 1,000 MT of tungsten in both 2014 and 2015.

7. Austria 

Mine production: 870 MT

Austria produced 870 MT of tungsten in 2015, the same amount it produced in 2014. Much of that production can be attributed to the Mittersill mine, which is located in Salzburg and owned by Wolfram Bergbau and Hutten. The Mittersill mine hosts the largest tungsten deposit in Europe.


8. Spain

Mine production: 730 MT

Spain made it onto the list of the world's top tungsten-producing countries last year with 730 MT of production. Still, that marks a drop from its 800 MT of output in 2014.

There are a number of companies engaged in the exploration, development and mining of tungsten assets in Spain. Examples include Almonty Industries (TSXV:AII), Ormonde Mining (LSE:ORM), Plymouth Minerals (ASX:PLH) and W Resources (LSE:WRES).

9. Portugal

Mine production: 630 MT

Like a number of other countries on the list, Portugal saw its tungsten output drop in 2015; its production of the metal fell to an estimated 630 MT from 671 MT a year earlier.

The Panasqueira mine is Portugal’s largest tungsten-producing mine. The largest past-producing mine in the country, the Borralha mine, is currently owned by Blackheath Resources (TSXV:BHR).

10. United Kingdom

Mine production: 600 MT

Finally, the UK made it onto the board with 600 MT of production. In the fall of 2015, Wolf Minerals (ASX:WLF,AIM:WLFE) opened its Hemerdon tungsten mine in Devon. According to the BBC, Hemerdon was the first tungsten mine to open in Britain in over 40 years.

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This article was originally published on February 25, 2016.


North American Tungsten Announces Orders in Proceedings Under CCAA

North American Tungsten Corp (TSXV:NTC) announced the orders that have been made in its proceedings under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, including an extension of stay to March 31.

As quoted in the press release, the orders are as follows:
a) on November 16, 2015, the Supreme Court of British Columbia made

North American Tungsten Corporation Reports Q3 2013 Results

North American Tungsten Corporation Ltd. (TSXV:NTC) reported its third quarter results, for the three months ended June 30, 2013. The Company announced a net loss of $6.3 million ($0.03 per share).

The Company continues to benefit from the 2012 capital program enhancements. As compared to Q3 2012, tonnes of ore processed,

 North American Tungsten Corporation Ltd. (TSXV:NTC) reported its third quarter results, for the three months ended June 30, 2013. The Company announced a net loss of $6.3 million ($0.03 per share).

The Company continues to benefit from the 2012 capital program enhancements. As compared to Q3 2012, tonnes of ore processed, ore grade and metallurgical recoveries all improved. A mill process improvement project commenced in Q3 2013. Construction of a raise on tailings pond 5 commenced at the beginning of Q3 2013 and was completed in July 2013.

As quoted in the press release:

…announces a net loss of $6.3 million ($0.03 per share ) for the three months ended June 30, 2013 and a net loss of $13.7 million ($0.06 per share) for the nine months ended on that date. These compare with a net loss of $2.2 million and net income of $6.9 million for the comparable periods of the prior year. The net loss for the quarter was magnified by the recognition of $1.8 million for employment contract settlements and $1.8 million of impairments of property, plant and equipment surplus to the requirements of the Company.

Sales revenues of $21.0 million for the quarter were 4% lower, on higher volumes but lower prices, as compared to the third quarter of fiscal 2012. Sales revenues of $57.4 million for the nine month period were 30% lower, on marginally higher volume and significantly lower sales prices, than in the same period in fiscal 2012.

Average market quotations for ammonium paratungstate (“APT”), the pricing basis for tungsten concentrates, have risen from a low of USD$295 per metric ton unit (“mtu”) in December 2012 to USD$398.5/mtu at June 30, 2013 and have since moved up to USD$417.50/mtu. However, prices have not yet reached the level of a year ago.

Cash flows from operations, before capital outlays and financing activities, were negative $1.2 million in the quarter and negative $0.1 million in the nine months period. As of June 30, 2013, working capital was negative $36.4 million. Continued support from shareholders and customers is being discussed and is required for the Company to meet obligation as they mature.

The Company continues to benefit from the 2012 capital program enhancements. As compared to Q3 2012, tonnes of ore processed, ore grade and metallurgical recoveries all improved.

The Company continued its underground diamond drilling program to further define its resources and develop a two to three year mine plan. In addition, it resumed its surface diamond drilling exploration with the objective of expanding the resources at Cantung. Results from such drilling should be available in Q4 2013. Geophysical surveys are also being employed to supplement and guide the diamond drilling.

A mill process improvement project commenced in Q3 2013 and will continue into Q2 of fiscal 2014. The project plan is to increase the mill throughput to 1,350 tons per day and to increase the total metallurgical recovery by increasing the effectiveness of the gravity and flotation circuits. To support the increased throughput, the Company has begun an open-pit campaign to stockpile ore this summer which will be utilized in fiscal 2014.

Construction of a raise on tailings pond 5 commenced at the beginning of Q3 2013 and was completed in July 2013. The Company is in the process of finalizing its comprehensive tailings management program, including continuing upgrades to the current tailings ponds, enhancements to its waste water treatment plant and development of a long-term storage facility for tailings.

North American Tungsten Corporation Ltd. Chairman and CEO, Kurt Heikkila, said:

The more time I spend involved in the operations, the more confident I become in our ability to continue to be a significant tungsten concentrate producer for many years. We have made substantial investments in infrastructure that have enhanced our abilities to produce concentrate, we have commenced projects to further enhance our mill throughput and are actively exploring both on surface and underground for additional resources. I continue to be impressed with the quality of the personnel in the organization and their dedication to making the Company the best tungsten mining company in the world. For that, I am genuinely thankful.

Click here to read the North American Tungsten Corporation Ltd. (TSXV:NTC) press release

See this press release on Marketwire
Click here to see the North American Tungsten Corporation Ltd. (TSXV:NTC) profile

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