Governments are actively rolling out strategies to address critical mineral supplies, for example:
“Critical minerals are necessary for the manufacture of high technology devices, national defense applications, and green growth-related industries. A critical commodity is one that is important for these specialized applications yet is at risk for supply disruption. Numerous elements that are defined as critical are recovered as by-products of the production of other mineral commodities.” USGS
“Critical minerals are the building blocks for the future of our green and digital economy. As a trusted supplier of responsibly sourced mining products, Canada is working to leverage its resource wealth, environmental stewardship, industrial know-how and trade relations to meet the rising global demand for critical minerals and value-added products.” Government of Canada
“Raw materials are crucial to Europe’s economy. They form a strong industrial base, producing a broad range of goods and applications used in everyday life and modern technologies. Reliable and unhindered access to certain raw materials is a growing concern within the EU and across the globe.” EU
Critical Metals are metals and non-metals that are considered vital for the economic well-being of the world's major and emerging economies, yet whose supply may be at risk due to geological scarcity, geopolitical issues, trade policy or other factors. Among these important minerals are metals and minerals used in industry (all industries across all supply chain stages), modern technology (e.g., mobile phones, flat screen monitors and many other high-tech applications), and the environment (e.g., wind turbines, electric cars, solar panels).
Many countries, including United States, Japan, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom and the European Union's industries and economies are reliant on international markets to provide access to many important raw materials that are produced and supplied by other countries. The supply of many critical raw materials is highly concentrated. The USGS estimates that China is the world’s largest supplier and consumer of tungsten.
The minerals ranked as most critical by the United States, Japan, Republic of Korea, and the European Union including the United Kingdom, are as follows (ranked by Geoscience Australia based on synthesis of individual country rankings)*:
Rare-earth elements (REE), gallium (Ga), indium (In), tungsten (W), platinum-group elements (PGE) including platinum (Pt) and palladium (Pd), cobalt (Co), niobium (Nb), magnesium (Mg), molybdenum (Mo), antimony (Sb), lithium (Li), vanadium (V), nickel (Ni), tantalum (Ta), tellurium (Te), chromium (Cr) and manganese (Mn).
Tungsten is recognized by the European Commission as having the highest economic importance of all raw materials
Both tungsten and molybdenum are ranked as critical minerals by Canada.
CRITICAL METAL: TUNGSTEN
Highest melting point of all metals (3,422 ± 15°C)
Density of 19.25g/cm , among the heaviest metals
Lowest vapour pressure of all metals
Very high moduli of compression and elasticity
Very high thermal creep resistance
High thermal and electrical conductivity
Hardest pure metal
Does not oxidise in air and needs no protection from oxidation at elevated temperatures
Excellent corrosion resistance and it is not attacked by nitric, hydrofluoric, or sulphuric acid solutions
Environmentally friendly, does not break down or decompose
Due to its extremely high melting point, tungsten mill products (sheet, rod, wire, pins) are fabricated from powder and not through melting and casting. The tungsten powder is pressed into parts, sintered (consolidated) and worked (rolled, forged, swaged, or wire drawn) to the desired form. Tungsten mill products are either tungsten metal products, such as lighting filaments, electrodes, electrical and electronic contacts, wires, sheet, rods, etc. or tungsten alloys.
Due to the unique properties of tungsten, tungsten alloys and some tungsten compounds, the metal cannot be substituted in many important applications in different fields of modern technology.
Tungsten, through its use in cemented carbide and high speed steel tools, is critical to the achievement of high productivity levels in industries on which the world's economic well-being depend. Tungsten carbides (hard metals) are essential to industrialisation as it allows for the high-speed drilling, cutting, pressing, and/or moulding of all types of material. Other uses are in aerospace, electronics, military and specialist steels/super alloys.
Tungsten is the most important metal for thermo-emission applications, not only because of its high electron emissivity (which is caused by additions of foreign elements) but also because of its high thermal and chemical stability.
Tungsten is also used in:
Coating and Joining Technology
the Automotive and Aerospace Industries
The global tungsten market is mainly driven by China, which will continue to dominate both tungsten supply and consumption. The Chinese government’s increased regulations and restrictions on exports of tungsten ore and increased domestic demand resulting from the manufacturing of value added tungsten products has caused China to become a net importer of tungsten concentrate. These factors along with China’s high growth in automotive, aerospace, mining and electronics sectors are also a major factor behind its dominant market position.
The global demand for tungsten is forecasted to rise annually (and is predicted to outstrip available supply which will place continued upward pressure on prices in the near-term.
Tungsten prices are generally quoted as US dollars per metric tonne unit (“MTU”) of tungsten trioxide (WO3) or as US$ per MTU of WO3 in Ammonium Paratungstate ("APT"), which is a downstream secondary product made from wolframite or scheelite concentrates.
Saleability of concentrate depends on grade and also the impurities in the concentrate.
Tungsten prices are also quoted as US$ per MTU of WO3 in Ammonium Paratungstate ("APT"), which is a downstream secondary product made from wolframite or scheelite concentrates.
Tungsten is not exchange traded and most sales are long term contract based.
CRITICAL METAL: MOLYBDENUM
Molybdenum plays a significant role in contemporary industrial technology which increasingly requires materials that are serviceable under high stress, expanded temperature ranges, and highly corrosive environments.
Molybdenum is primarily used as an alloying agent in steel, cast iron, and super alloys to enhance hardening ability, strength, toughness, wear, and corrosion resistance.
Molybdenum is also used as a refractory metal in numerous chemical applications including catalysts, lubricants, and pigments.
Molybdenum is rapidly becoming a critical metal in the development of green technology and alternative energy.