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Tungsten is a strategic metal without substitute


Properties and Uses

Tungsten is a gray-to-white metal with several unique properties:

  • High melting point - the highest melting point of all metals
  • Extremely hard - tungsten has very high tensile strength and wears resistance, while tungsten carbide, a tungsten compound widely used in industry, is nearly as hard as diamond.
  • Very heavy - the density of tungsten is similar to that of gold.

Given its unique properties, tungsten is used in a variety of industrial applications for which it is virtually impossible to substitute for it without affecting performance:

  • Hardmetals (cemented carbides) - Due to its hardness and wear resistance, over 50% of the world’s tungsten is used in producing hard metals. These are tungsten carbide-based materials that have a variety of applications, including the use in cutting tools for metals and stone; large-scale tools such as drill bits for mining drills; delicate tools such as the drills used in dentistry; molding tools in the steel industry; armaments (cannon shells, grenades and missiles); and even ball-point pen tips.
  • Steels and super-alloys- The hardness and high melting point of tungsten also lends itself to applications in the steel industry. It is used in cutting tools and super-alloys employed in applications such as jet turbine engines.
  • Lamp filaments - Probably the most well-known application of tungsten is its role in the filaments in light bulbs. However, its use in this industry is slowly reducing as more efficient sources of lighting are developed and used.
  • Other electrical and electronic applications - Tungsten has many other electrical and electronic applications, such as its use in circuit boards and in the production of electrical contacts and electrodes.
  • Chemical and other applications - Tungsten also has a range of chemical and niche applications in the glass, ceramics, paint, and petroleum industries.

Global Supply

China dominates the world’s production of primary tungsten with over 80% of tungsten production (estimated), as well as over 60% of identified tungsten reserves (Source: U.S. Geological Survey).

Source : US Geological Survey 2015, MR Production Forecast & In-house Research

China consumes approximately 60% of primary tungsten, growing at a CAGR of over 10% over the past 10 years. Growth driven by urbanization, industrialization, and push to move the tungsten industry downstream

Global tungsten demand is expected to grow moderately in the next five years due to rising demand from emerging countries.

In 2011 and 2014 reports by the European Union named Tungsten as one of the ‘critical raw elements’ for Europe given the metal’s economic importance and concentration of supply sources.

Source : US Geological Survey 2015, MR Production Forecast & In-house Research