BACKGROUND

Governments are actively rolling out strategies to address critical mineral supplies, for example:
 

United States

“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
 

Canada

“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
 

European Union

“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

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.

* Source: https://www.ga.gov.au/about/projects/resources/critical-minerals

 

CRITICAL  METAL: TUNGSTEN

Properties:

  • 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.

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Uses:

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:

  • Lighting Technology

  • Electronics

  • Power Engineering

  • Coating and Joining Technology 

  • the Automotive and Aerospace Industries 

  • Medical Technology

  • Sports 

  • Jewellery

Tungsten Market:

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:

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.

 
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CRITICAL METALS

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.

* Sources: