Tungsten is a metal with unique properties making it an essential industrial metal. Critical properties include – having the highest melting point of all metals (3,400°C) and the highest tensile strength, very high density, hardness close to diamond, thermally and chemically stable, excellent conductor, and is environmentally benign.
Tungsten’s most important use is as tungsten carbide in hardmetals, where its use us essential to industrialisation as it allows for the high speed drilling, cutting, pressing, moulding of all types of material. Secondary uses are in electronics and specialist steels/super alloys.
China accounts for over 80% of world tungsten mine production; western world supply is limited.
Chinese domestic demand has increased rapidly in the past number of years, and China has moved from a net exporter to net importer of tungsten concentrates.
Tungsten, with essential applications in industry, aerospace and military, is a strategic commodity
Concerns over security of supply of tungsten concentrates to western processors and industry end-users. This along with other factors have resulted in the EU categorising tungsten as a “critical raw material” and the British Geological Survey ranking tungsten top of its metals “Risk List”.
Tungsten consumption growth is closely correlated with Global GDP, however over the 10 years to 2014 demand rose at approx. double that of Global GDP.
World consumption of primary tungsten is forecasted to grow by ~3-4% annually over period 2016-2020.