What countries account for the most tungsten production? China took the top spot last year, with eight other countries following behind.
Tungsten, also known as wolfram, has many uses. It is commonly used to produce electrical wires, and for heating and electrical contacts.
According to the most recent US Geological Survey report on the metal, world tungsten production came in at 95,000 MT in 2017, up from 2016’s 88,100 MT.
This increase came despite reduced output from Mongolia, Rwanda and Spain. A large boost in production came from the UK, where production rose around 50 percent.
The price of tungsten started to rise at the beginning of 2017, and had a good run for the remainder of the year, but tungsten prices ended 2018 relatively flat.
Even so, tungsten’s importance in industrial applications, from smartphones to car batteries, means demand won’t disappear anytime soon. With that in mind, it’s worth being aware of which countries produce the most tungsten. Here’s an overview of the top-producing nations last year.
Mine production: 79,000 MT
China produced more tungsten in 2017 than it did in 2016, and remained the world’s largest producer by a wide margin. In total, it put out 79,000 MT of tungsten last year, up from 72,000 MT the year before.
It’s possible that Chinese tungsten production may fall in the future — the Asian nation has limited the quantity of tungsten-mining and export licenses it awards, and has imposed quotas on concentrate tungsten production. The country has also recently increased environmental inspections.
In addition to being the world’s largest tungsten producer, China is also the world’s top consumer of the metal. It was the main source of tungsten imported into the US in 2017 as well, reportedly bringing in 34 percent at a value of $145 million. US-imposed tariffs on Chinese goods as part of a trade war between the two countries that began in 2018 may impact those numbers moving forward.
Mine production: 7,200 MT
Unlike China, Vietnam experienced another jump in tungsten production in 2017. It put out 7,200 MT of the metal compared to 6,500 MT the previous year. Privately owned Masan Resources runs the Vietnam-based Nui Phao mine, which it says is the largest tungsten-producing mine outside China. It is also one of the lowest-cost producers of tungsten in the world.
Mine production: 3,100 MT
Russia’s tungsten production was flat from 2016 to 2017, coming in at 3,100 MT in both years. This plateau came in spite of President Vladimir Putin’s order that production resume at the Tyrnyauz tungsten-molybdenum field. Putin would like to see a large-scale mining and processing complex established.
Wolfram Company is the country’s largest producer of tungsten products, according to its website, and the company claims that each year it produces up to 1,000 tons of metal tungsten powder, plus up to 6,000 tons of tungsten oxide and up to 800 tons of tungsten carbide.
Mine production: 1,100 MT
Bolivia tied with the UK for tungsten production in 2017. Despite moves to promote the tungsten industry in the country, Bolivia’s output remained flat at 1,100 MT.
The Bolivian mining industry is heavily influenced by Comibol, the country’s state-owned mining umbrella company. The company reported a profit of $53.6 million for the 2017 fiscal year.
5. United Kingdom
Mine production: 1,100 MT
The UK saw a huge leap in tungsten production in 2017, with output rising to 1,100 MT compared to 736 MT the year before. Wolf Minerals is likely largely responsible for the increase; in the fall of 2015, the company opened the Drakelands (formerly known as Hemerdon) tungsten mine in Devon.
According to the BBC, Drakelands was the first tungsten mine to open in Britain in over 40 years. However, it shut down in 2018 after Wolf went into administration. The company was reportedly unable to meet its short-term working capital requirements. You can read more about tungsten in the UK here.
Mine production: 950 MT
Austria produced 950 MT of tungsten in 2017 compared to 954 MT the previous year. Much of that production can be attributed to the Mittersill mine, which is located in Salzburg and hosts the largest tungsten deposit in Europe. The mine is owned by Sandvik (STO:SAND).
Mine production: 680 MT
Portugal is one of the few countries on this list that saw an increase in tungsten production in 2017. It put out 680 MT of the metal, up from 549 MT the previous year.
The Panasqueira mine is Portugal’s largest tungsten-producing mine. The past-producing Borralha mine, once the second-largest tungsten mine in Portugal, is currently owned by Blackheath Resources (TSXV:BHR). Avrupa Minerals (TSXV:AVU) is another smaller company with a tungsten project in Portugal. You can read more about tungsten in Portugal here.
Mine production: 650 MT
Tungsten is one of the most common conflict minerals in the world, meaning that at least some of it is produced in conflict zones and sold to perpetuate fighting. While Rwanda has promoted itself as a source of conflict-free minerals, concerns remain about tungsten output from the country. Fairphone, a company that promotes “fairer electronics,” is supporting conflict-free tungsten production in Rwanda.
Rwanda produced just 650 MT of tungsten in 2017, down a fair bit from 820 MT in 2016. Click here to learn more about tungsten in Africa.
Mine production: 570 MT
Spain’s tungsten production dropped in 2017, coming in at 570 MT. That’s down from 650 MT the previous year.
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) and W Resources (LSE:WRES). You can read more about them here.
Now that you know more about tungsten production and where it comes from, what else would you like to know? Ask us your questions in the comments below.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Amanda Kay, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.