Tungsten is a commercially important element is naturally found on Earth in form of chemical compounds. Tungsten’s important ore includes wolframite and scheelite. Tungsten is the second hardest material after diamond and has a very high melting point. Tungsten is normally mined from underground ores from scheelite or/and wolframite ores. Tungsten and its alloys have diverse commercial applications. Tungsten is primarily used for the production of cemented carbides (hard materials), used for shaping alloys, metals, plastics, wood composites, ceramics as well as construction and mining industry. Tungsten mill products are tungsten alloys or tungsten metal products such as electrodes, filaments, wires, rods, sheets, etc. Tungsten is also used as an important partner for high speed steels, tool steels, creep resistant tools and alloys and satellites.
The use of tungsten for producing cemented carbide was the largest primary use of tungsten across the globe. The demand for tungsten is correlated to the general economic activity, since tungsten’s major applications are industrial applications. Cemented carbide was followed by mill products and steel/alloys respectively. Tungsten is also used in other chemical applications such as high temperature lubricants ceramics, scintillation detectors, etc. Tungsten carbides perform a crucial role in the field of engineering materials. Cemented carbides are made by cementing tungsten monocarbide grains in binder matrix of tough nickel or cobalt alloy by liquid phase sintering. Tool steel contains tungsten, vanadium and molybdenum. Tool steel constituting of around 0.6% of carbon it is referred as high speed steel (HSS). The primary use of high speed steel are used in the manufacturing of drill taps, cutting tools, milling cutters, saw blades, gear cutters. Tungsten rods are used for inert gas wielding. Also tungsten filaments are used for the production of lighting filaments for lighting applications. Tungsten is also used in different types of incandescent lamps. Common types of incandescent lamps where tungsten is used are GLS lamps, automotive lamps, floodlights and projector applications among others. Europe is an important market for tungsten demand. In Europe, Germany accounts for the largest demand for tungsten. The high demand for tungsten from Germany can be attributed to the presence of numerous automobile and manufacturing industries in this region. The demand for tungsten for industrial applications is expected to witness strong growth particularly in regions of Asia Pacific and Latin America. In Asia Pacific, China is the major consumer of tungsten followed by India. In South America, Brazil is the major consumer for tungsten owing to increased industrial activities in these regions.
In terms of supply, China is the major supplier of tungsten, other exporters of tungsten ores and concentrates are Russia, Portugal, Canada and Bolivia. The major export destinations for tungstates are U.S, Germany and Japan whereas ferrotungsten is exported by China to the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, U.S and Austria. As, China is the major exporter of tungsten, the global market has to relied on China for tungsten supply. The Chinese government has imposed various measures in order to control and consolidate its domestic tungsten industry. However, countries such as U.S, Europe and Japan have challenged Chinese government’s decision of export restrictions with WTO. Companies such as EMC Metals and Woulfe Mining have recently expanded their tungsten producing capacity across different regions.
Some of the major companies operating in the global tungsten market are Largo Resources, Deutsche Rohstoff, Carbine Tungsten Ltd., Masan Group, Woulfe Mining, Thor Mining, Hazlewood Resources, and Vital Metals among others.