The market of Tungsten supply
Over the last few years, sources of supply have shifted totally. In 1986, the USSR was the world's largest consumer but, by 1992, the reformed CIS was exporting tungsten and by 1996 was the world's second largest supplier.
In the late 1990s and at the beginning of the new millennium, China had risen to dominate production with 90% of the world market for tungsten production and supply. This was despite China supposedly having about 75% of the world's tungsten resources.
This shifting dynamic makes it hard to identify where exactly the future production will be coming from. The calculation of global reserves leaves something to be desired in our view. On the Chinese side we, as in so many other things, have no verification of how large reserves are or the pace at which they are being consumed (something that has been an issue also in Rare Earths and Antimony in recent times).
On the Western side we have reserves of Tungsten that are the result of decades of low focus on exploration. The fact that several relative newcomers to the space can come up with substantial new resources rather swiftly after beginning exploration might imply that the West's share of global Tungsten resources is severely underestimated (as it has been in Antimony and Rare Earths).
Secondary production of tungsten, according to Roskill, accounted for 22% of global tungsten supply in 2013, predominantly from recycling facilities in Europe and North American. Greater adoption of tungsten recycling technologies is expected, particularly in Asia, with tungsten from secondary sources forecast to account for 28% of global supply by 2018. The tungsten price will however have a significant bearing upon the volume of secondary tungsten available, as recycling facilities may stockpile material for periods of high pricing.
We also have the fascinating phenomenon that the Iberian Peninsula producers that ruled Western production for decades (and were very strategic in WW2) faded in the 1980s and are now resurging in both Portugal and Spain. Australia is also on the comeback trail and even South Korea looks likely to return to production. That England has also recently joined the ranks of producers shows that the Chinese will not have their own way in this metal.
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