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What Is Tungsten and Where Do I Use It?


  • Tungsten, also known as wolfram, is a chemical element with the chemical symbol W and atomic number 74. It is a shiny, silvery-white metal.

  • It has the highest melting point of all metals and is alloyed with other metals to strengthen them. Tungsten and its alloys are used in many high-temperature applications, such as arc-welding electrodes and heating elements in high-temperature furnaces.

  • It is used in electronics, coating and joining technology, the automotive and aerospace industries, medical technology, the tooling industry and power engineering.

  • Tungsten carbide is immensely hard and is very important to the metal-working, mining and petroleum industries. It is made by mixing tungsten powder and carbon powder and heating to 2200°C. It makes excellent cutting and drilling tools, including a new ‘painless’ dental drill which spins at ultra-high speeds.


Where is Tungsten Produced?


  • The global producers of tungsten are China 83%, Vietnam 6% and Russia 3%. 


  • Some mines which have closed in recent decades in Australia, South Korea and the USA are now considering re-opening.


  • Mining of tungsten is performed through both open-pit mining and underground mining. The ore from mine is crushed and milled, and then upgraded by means of gravity enrichment or flotation. Forcommercial trading 65-75% WO3 content is required for further refining (European Commission, 2014).


Global Market


  • China is the biggest producer, exporter, and consumer of tungsten concentrates. For more than 10 years, China has not allowed the export of tungsten concentrates (Eurometaux, 2019). Tungsten has been defined in the “National Mineral Resources Planning” (2016-2020) as a strategic mineral resource. Therefore, China planned to control tungsten exploitation at 120,000 tonnes of tungsten concentrates, equal to 62,000 tonnes of tungsten content by 2020.


  • Experts (Eurometaux, 2020) argue that the economic viability of western mines depends on opaque pricing mechanisms dominated by state-influenced decisions in China (e.g., “environmental inspections” to reduce inflow or release of stockpiles) and severe over-capacity of APT production in Asia (notably China). 


  • The refinery-level industry in the EU faces the risk to be cut off from concentrate supplies, if APT prices are (possibly artificially) depressed.


Specific Issues


  • Due to its unique properties, tungsten, tungsten alloys and some tungsten compounds cannot be substituted in many important applications in different fields of modern technology.

  • According to the classification provided by companies, tungsten is a flammable solid, it is self- heating in large quantities and may catch fire. (ECHA, 2022a) (ECHA, 2022b). Nickel tungstate (NiWO4) is citedas carcinogen in Appendix 1 of Annex XVII (List of restricted substances) as a nickel compound but is not currently being manufactured in and/or imported to the European Economic Area (ECHA 2022c).



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