Supply cutbacks influence tungsten market

- March 3rd, 2009

Chinese ferrotungsten export prices have been creeping up since the conclusion of the spring festival in January. Low prices in the fourth quarter of 2008 pushed many key tungsten producers to stop operations. The same miners have announced, that despite the current trend, they do not plan to resume mining and production in short term.

By Leia Michele Toovey- Exclusive to Tungsten Investing News

Chinese ferro tungsten export prices have been creeping up since the conclusion of the spring festival in January.  Low prices in the fourth quarter of 2008 pushed many key tungsten producers to stop operations. The same miners have announced, that despite the current trend, they do not plan to resume mining and production in short term. A local ferro tungsten producer said that “We expect a further rise before our restart. The restart time may be March when the weather is fine for mining.” Traders said prices of ferro tungsten in Europe crept up for the second week running as lack of new supplies from China reinforced a dearth of material in Rotterdam. China’s steel industry is starting to ramp up production in anticipation of infrastructure spending; considering tungsten is already in short supply, this has the potential to positively influence the metal’s price.

China, who holds a monopoly on the supply of tungsten, churned out 84,470 tonnes of tungsten concentrates last year.  This figure was up by 5.01 per cent YoY; however the figure shows a 10.71 per cent contraction MoMo, December 2008 vs. December 2007. In 2008, yield of tungsten concentrates in Hunan Province dropped 10.86 per cent YoY to 27,590 tonnes accounting for 32.7 per cent of the total output while it in Jiangxi Province has notched up by 5.52 per cent YoY to 39,306 tonnes which takes up 46.5 per cent of the total. The whole tonnages in Hunan and Jiangxi contributed as high as 79.2 per cent to the state annual production of tungsten concentrates.

North American Tungsten Corporation Ltd (TSX.V:NTC), the Western World’s largest producer of tungsten concentrate, has announced results for the three months ending Dec. 31, 2008, (their first quarter). For the First Quarter, North American Tungsten had net earnings of $4.92 million, or 4 cents per share. Sales revenues in the First Quarter were $17.6 million – a 49.7 per cent increase over the first three months of 2008. The gross operating margin increased from a loss of $2 million in Q1 2008 to earnings of $3.8 million in the First Quarter. During the First Quarter, the company generated revenues from sales of both tungsten concentrates and ammonium paratungstate (APT) that was processed from concentrates. The net earnings comprised of $1.8 million before the dilution gain. The dilution gain of $3.1 million was realized from the company’s reorganisation of its subsidiary Tungsten Diversified Industries, LLC (formerly Tungsten Joint Venture, LLC).

During the First Quarter, North American Tungsten released a national iInstrument compliant report on updated reserves and resources for the Cantung mine. Subsequent to the first quarter, the company also released its bankable feasibility study for the Mactung property – one of the world’s largest known undeveloped tungsten deposits. Indicated mineral resources at Mactung are estimated at 33 million tonnes grading .88 per cent WO3. Underground indicated mineral reserves have been calculated at 8.2 million tonnes grading 1.09 per cent WO3.  Mactung’s estimated pre-tax net present value is $277 million.

Malaga Inc. has signed supply agreement with Global Tungsten & Powders Corp. for the sale of its tungsten ore concentrates produced by the company’s subsidiary at Pasto Bueno mine, Huaura plant in Peru. The supply agreement provides for a monthly minimum quantity of tungsten ore to be acquired by Global Tungsten from Malaga until February 2014.  Malaga  is to pay, in advance, a sum of $1.2 million within thirty days of the execution of the supply agreement, to be applied against Malaga’s invoices over the last concentrates delivered by February 2014. As part of the deal, Global Tungsten will finance Malaga for an amount of $3.8 million, through the issuance by Malaga to Global Tungsten of 5-year convertible secured promissory notes.

Sandvik has reached an agreement to acquire Wolfram Bergbau- und Hütten-GmbH Nfg KG (WBH), an Austrian producer and supplier of tungsten products. The acquisition is expected to be completed during the second quarter of 2009, after approval by relevant anti trust authorities. WBH operates a refining plant for producing tungsten carbide, including a chemical plant for recycling tungsten material, at St Martin in Austria, and a mine and ore dressing plant at Mittersill in Austria.  WBH is active within the tungsten industry since 1975 and offers tungsten carbide and tungsten metal powders. The acquisition of WBH is of long-term strategic importance for Sandvik.

Mr. Anders Thelin president of Sandvik Tooling said that “This acquisition complements and strengthens our business. WBH will bring know-how, technology and capacity for world class production and recycling of tungsten carbide. It provides us with resources to manage the entire production process, from ore to finished cemented carbide powder. In this way we will be able to further strengthen our raw material supply and develop our business and customer offering.”

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