10 Top Tungsten-producing Countries
10 Top Tungsten-producing Countries

Wolframite. Source: Wikimedia

Tungsten, also known as wolfram, is a metal with many uses. It is commonly used to produce electrical wires and heating and electrical contacts, but is also used in welding, heavy metal alloys, heat sinks, turbine blades and as a substitute for lead in bullets.

According to a US Geological Survey (USGS) report, world tungsten production reached 82,400 metric tons (MT) in 2014, an increase over 2013's 81,400 MT. Here's a brief overview of the 10 countries that produced the most tungsten last year.

1. China

Mine production: 68,000 MT

China is the largest producer of tungsten, accounting for about 84.5 percent of the world's total output. In 2014, the country produced 68,000 MT of tungsten, the same amount as the previous year. That's a lot of tungsten, but a recent report notes that the Asian nation's tungsten production may fall in the future as supply grows tighter.

2. Russia

Mine production: 3,600 MT

Russia produced much less tungsten than China in 2014, but still took second-place spot, putting out 3,600 MT of the metal. That's the same amount the country produced in 2013. MBendi Information Services states that in the past Russia has flooded the market with tungsten in order to drive the metal's price down.

3. Canada

Mine production: 2,200 MT

Canada saw an increase in tungsten output in 2014, producing 2,200 MT of the metal; that's compared to 2,130 MT in 2013. One of the country's main tungsten producers is North American Tungsten (TSXV:NTC) — in particular, its Northwest Territories-based Cantung mine, which is one of the largest operating tungsten mines outside China, is a significant producer.

4. Vietnam

Mine production: 2,000 MT

Vietnam also enjoyed increased tungsten production in 2014. The country bumped up its output to 2,000 MT from 1,660 MT the previous year.

Privately owned Masan Resources owns the Nui Phao mine, which accounts for 22 percent of world tungsten production outside of China. Since Masan acquired the mine in 2010, it has seen consistent growth. The company expects to produce more material in 2015, and intends to list its shares to provide greater flexibility for long-term growth.

5. Bolivia

Mine production: 1,300 MT

Bolivia produced 1,300 MT of tungsten last year, an increase over the 1,250 MT produced in 2013. However, in 2013, companies started making moves to promote tungsten in the country. For example, Kennametal (NYSE:KMT) acquired tungsten processing operations in Bolivia, also securing related material sourcing agreements. The company hopes the move will allow it to expand global growth while avoiding risks associated with owning mining operations.

"Tungsten is a key ingredient for technologies we develop, and ultimately vital to virtually every kind of manufacturing," said Carlos Cardoso, chairman, president and CEO of Kennametal. "We look forward to welcoming the employees of Emura to our company family, and adding these assets to serve customers with the most advanced capabilities in our industry."


Mine production: 850 MT

Austria produced 850 MT of tungsten in 2014, the same amount it produced in 2013. Much of that production can be attributed to the Mittersill mine, which is located in Salzburg and owned by Wolfram Bergbau and Hutten. The Mittersill mine is the largest tungsten deposit in Europe.

7. Democratic Republic of the Congo

Mine production: 800 MT

The Democratic Republic of the Congo saw a decrease in tungsten production from 2013 to 2014. In 2013, the country produced 830 MT, while it produced only 800 MT of the metal in 2014. That drop is largely due to tougher regulations regarding conflict minerals, and those regulations are being further enforced still.

According to The Guardian, European imports from conflict zones are now subject to increased surveillance procedures, a system that will affect 800,000 European countries. That is going to limit the amount of imported material European countries will accept, and will ultimately affect the amount of tungsten and other materials that many mines, located largely in Africa, will be able to export.

8. Portugal

Mine production: 700 MT

Portugal increased its tungsten production in 2014, reaching 700 MT compared to 692 MT in 2013. The Panasqueira mine is Portugal's largest tungsten-producing mine, and Borralha is the largest past-producing mine in the country.

9. Rwanda

Mine production: 700 MT

Rwanda produced 700 MT of tungsten in 2014, less than its 2013 production of 730 MT. Similar to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the drop has much to do with tightening regulations surrounding conflict minerals, as noted by Bloomberg.

"The revenue from this year will not be good as those of last year unless there is a tremendous increase in prices in the last six months of the year, and we don't expect that," said Evode Imena, state minister for mining. "Companies have been reluctant to buy tungsten from Rwanda because of reasons related to conflict minerals. Tungsten buyers have returned but with bad prices."

10. Australia

Mine production: 600 MT

Australia had significant growth in its tungsten production from 2013 to 2014. Last year, the country produced 600 MT of the metal, a large jump from 2013's 320 MT.

10 Top Tungsten-producing Countries from Tungsten Investing News