How much do you actually know about where tungsten comes from? It's an interesting element because it isn't one that is mined in the traditional manner. There are actually several stages of extraction used to get tungsten from its ores. It's converted to tungsten oxide that then gets heated with carbon or hydrogen to make powdered tungsten which then gets mixed with other metals such as nickel and sintered. It's during sintering that the nickel or other metal gets diffused with tungsten creating an alloy. Because of this detailed process, saying exactly where tungsten is mined is a little tricky, but, I'm going to do my best to talk a little about where exactly tungsten is mined around the world. As always if you have any additional information let me know.
It's interesting to me that tungsten is as readily available as it is in the jewelry industry because of one simple fact… most tungsten deposits contain very little tungsten. Most tungsten deposits have less than 1.5% tungsten trioxide which really is not much. In 2012 the British Geological Survey actually referred to it as an endangered substance.
Where is it Found?
Tungsten is found in ores such as scheelite and wolframite. These ores are found around the world but the country that accounts for the most tungsten concentrate production is China, supplying about 83% of the tungsten concentrate produced globally and 62% of tungsten reserves according to Jennings Capital. Because of how low the prices of tungsten were after China's production of the element flooded the market in the 1990s, most western mines that mined ores that could be used to produce tungsten ended up closing. Following China, the country that produces the most tungsten is Canada, with the North American Tungsten Corps. Ltd.'s Cantung mine being the most significant producer of the element in terms of volume following China. Interestingly, tungsten consumption is highest in China and the United States, even though there are no producing tungsten mines in the United States.
Other countries that produce enough tungsten to be worth mentioning include Russia, who was the second largest producer of tungsten prior to the discovery of the Dakota Zone at Cantung, and Japan. According to a market overview put together by Ormonde Mining PLC in 2010, China pretty much dominates the market production of the mineral at about 77% of world mine production, with Russia coming in at 5%, North America, Europe and Japan coming in at a combined 8%, and the rest of the world combined at 10%.
So there you have it! Almost all tungsten comes from China, with only small percentages of tungsten mining and production being done in other parts of the world. If you want a bit more information check out the following resources and let me know if you learned something new from this post! I love hearing from you guys!
Tungsten Enter the Limelight - An interview with Ken Chernin, a research analyst with Jennings Capital that discusses tungsten production, rarity, prices, and more.
New Discovery of The Dakota Zone at Cantung - The second largest producer of tungsten recently discovered a new mining zone that is likely to amp up tungsten production in the future.
by: Vanessa LeBeau