Top Tungsten Producing Countries in 2022

Tungsten, with its numerous applications, is essential in a wide range of sectors, from electrical wiring to heavy metal alloys and beyond. But where is the world’s tungsten sourced from? Join us as we delve into the intriguing world of tungsten mining, learning about the top-producing countries and the complex processes that shape this vital manufacturing market.

Global Tungsten Production

According to the US Geological Survey, the year 2022 witnessed a rise in global tungsten production, reaching 84,000 metric tonnes, a minor gain over the previous year’s 83,800 metric tonnes. Notably, China remains the epicentre of tungsten mining.

The Importance of Tungsten in an Age of Industrial Diversity

The relevance of tungsten is felt across industrial domains, from smartphone components to automobile batteries and defence ballistic projectiles, indicating an increased trend in demand. This spike in demand, however, is accompanied by obstacles such as supply chain interruptions, geopolitical instabilities and rising manufacturing costs, casting a shadow over the world’s tungsten supply. Tungsten is commonly found in the ore minerals scheelite and wolframite, and its extraction and processing require complicated and costly procedures. The ores have a low tungsten yield, necessitating large-scale operations for mining corporations. Market factors also point to a persistent rising trend in tungsten prices, which is expected to continue throughout 2023 and beyond.

Top Tungsten Producers

Understanding which countries lead the charge is critical in navigating the tungsten production landscape. Let’s look at the top tungsten-producing countries using data from the United States Geological Survey.

  1. China – The Undisputed Leader 
  • Output: 71,000 metric tonnes

China’s tungsten domination remains unrivaled, being the uncontested global tungsten powerhouse, accounting for 84% of the world’s tungsten production with a whopping 71,000 metric tonnes produced in 2022, up from the previous year.  Despite various international worries about this enormous concentration, China’s market dominance, combined with the country’s vast reserves, has cemented the country’s position as a major contributor to the global tungsten industry. Because China has the world’s greatest tungsten reserves, the metal has been overproduced, causing its prices to decrease. To compensate for the price drop, the Chinese government has set a production limit of 91,300 metric tonnes per year. A more nuanced view suggests a modest decrease in China’s tungsten output as a result of these strategic constraints on mining and export licences, combined with enhanced environmental inspection. China’s dual role as the world’s biggest producer and consumer of tungsten strengthens its worldwide hegemony of the tungsten market. 

  1. Vietnam – Consistent Tungsten Production
  • Output: 4,800 metric tonnes

Vietnam, a persistent player in tungsten mining, maintained its output level of 4,800 metric tonnes in 2022, which was the same as the previous year accounting for 5.7% of global tungsten production. Vietnam is notable for being one of the world’s lowest-cost tungsten producers, demonstrating a commitment to economic efficiency. It is through this lower-cost Vietnamese tungsten production opportunity that new players on the scene are able to challenge China’s hold over tungsten supply chains. Companies such as Tungsten Metals Group are aiming to provide alternatives in the realm of tungsten production to offer industries a tungsten production option external to China’s control as they own and operate the world’s largest ferrotungsten production plant outside of China. The factory is based in Vietnam and has a staggering production capacity of 4,000metric tonnes of FeW per annum. This establishes an attractive opportunity for buyers looking for a more stable supply chain outside of potential geopolitical implications faced in Chinese-controlled markets.

  1. Russia: Navigating Difficulties
  • Output: 2,300 metric tonnes

Russia’s tungsten output remained stable in 2022 at 2,300 metric tonnes or 2.7% of global tungsten production, despite hurdles posed by geopolitical concerns, particularly the conflict with Ukraine. Sanctions and trade disruptions have hampered Russia’s capacity to provide tungsten to the global market, increasing Europe’s reliance on Chinese imports.

  1. Bolivia – Promising Growth
  • Output: 1,400 metric tonnes

Bolivia’s strategic attempts to promote the tungsten industry have yielded results since 2014, albeit 2022 saw a minor decrease to 1,400 metric tonnes from 1,563 metric tonnes the previous year. Comibol, the state-owned mining umbrella organisation, wields considerable power in Bolivia’s mining environment.

  1. Rwanda – Overcoming Obstacles
  • Output: 1,100 metric tonnes

Rwanda, produced 1,100 metric tonnes in 2022, but is experiencing hurdles as a result of tungsten being categorised as a conflict material. Concerns persist despite efforts to encourage conflict-free mineral exploitation. Domestic players mining tungsten and their endeavours to encourage conflict-free tungsten production in Rwanda demonstrates the industry’s dedication to ethical standards. Despite the fact that Rwanda’s tungsten reserves are unknown, the country’s consistent production between 2016 and 2022 solidifies its status as a key tungsten producer.

  1. Austria – Europe’s Largest Tungsten Resource 
  • Output: 900 metric tonnes

Austria will remain the sixth-largest tungsten producer in 2022, having produced 900 metric tonnes the previous year. Wolfram’s Mittersill mine in Salzburg emerges as a significant contributor, including being deemed Europe’s largest tungsten resource. The estimated tungsten deposits in Austria are 10,000 metric tonnes, showing the country’s prospective capacity.

  1. Spain – Strong Growth
  • Output: 700 metric tonnes

Spain’s tungsten production increased by 75% in 2022, from 400 metric tonnes the previous year to 900 metric tonnes in 2022. Within Spain, several companies are actively engaged in tungsten exploration, development, and mining which highlights continued growth in this market domestically. Spain is one of the world’s largest tungsten-producing countries. Furthermore, this amount represents only a small portion of the country’s proved reserves, which are believed to be roughly 56,000 metric tonnes. Such reserves show Spain’s potential for long-term tungsten production and can help to stabilise the global supply chain for this key industrial metal.

  1. Portugal – Consistent Output
  • Output: 500 metric tonnes

Portugal maintains its position on the list with tungsten output of 500 metric tonnes in 2022, which is nearly identical to the previous year’s 502 metric tonnes. Despite having the fewest known tungsten reserves of the nations listed, Portugal still has an estimated 3,100 metric tonnes of tungsten deposits, indicating a significant potential for long-term production. Portugal’s Panasqueira mine is the country’s largest tungsten-producing facility. 

Finally, the complex dance of tungsten manufacturing occurs on a global basis, with each country contributing its own cadence and tempo. Despite the intricate interplay of supply, demand, production, and geopolitical events, tungsten’s importance in a variety of industries remains unwavering. Keep an eye on these key tungsten producers since they have an impact on the future of this critical metal.

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