China currently has most tungsten in the world, but notable deposits can also be found throughout Europe. Many companies are exploring the continent in the hope of finding valuable assets to help meet worldwide demand. Tungsten is primarily used for industrial drilling and cutting tools, as well as for electronics and specialized steels.
The United Kingdom
The majority of tungsten reserves in the United Kingdom are in the southwest of England, primarily Western Devon and Cornwall. Both of these locales have long histories of mining, though operations have declined in recent years. There are currently not enough reserves in the area to be reported by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Specialty metals company Wolf Minerals (ASX:WLF) is one of the major companies operating tungsten projects in the United Kingdom. Its primary asset is the Hemerdon mine, which produces tungsten and tin. It is located near the Plymouth in Devin County in the Southwest UK.
Hemerdon has been identified as a “highly economic potential producer of low-cost tungsten,” the company’s website states. Recent research determined it has measured, indicated and inferred resources of 401.4 million tons at 0.13 percent WO3, which is tungsten trioxide.
There are currently not enough tungsten reserves in Spain to be reported by the U.S. Geological Survey, but the western side of the country is home to the most mining of the metal. Three companies engaged in exploration, development and mining of tungsten assets in Spain are Almonty Industries (TSXV:AII), Ormonde Mining (LSE:ORM) and W Resources (LSE:WRES).
Almonty Industries prides itself on acquiring distressed and underperforming tungsten assets and operations and applying its know-how to better the projects. The company is currently working on the Los Santos mine in Northern Spain. Almonty is currently working on optimizing the operations at Los Santos in order to improve the recovery of tungsten to roughly 65 percent (a 40 percent increase from prior to the acquisition) and reducing operating costs.
All three of Ormonde Mining’s projects are in Spain, but its most major asset is the Barruecopardo tungsten project. The company’s website states that it is one of the top undeveloped tungsten projects outside of China. It has measured, indicated and inferred mineral resources of 27.39 million tons at 0.26 percent WO3. Ormonde expects the asset will produce 227,000 tonnes of tungsten per year.
W Resources is a tungsten exploration and development country with projects in Spain and Portugal. Its La Parilla project is located in the Extremadura region of southwest Spain. The asset was previously mined from 1954 to 1986, and W Resources is now working to restart operations there.
Portugal has 4,200 tonnes of tungsten reserves, as per the US Geological Survey. During both 2011 and 2012, the country produced 820 tonnes of the metal per year. It is one of the top exporters of tungsten ores and concentrates in the world.
Portugal’s Panasqueira mine is one of the largest tungsten mines in the world. Production began in 1898. Currently, room and pillar mining is the method used on the site, which is located in the Estrela Mountains. Small amounts of tin and copper can also be found there.
Junior mining companies are also starting to shift their focus to Portugal’s tungsten. One example is Blackheath Resources (TSXV:BHR), whose main asset is the past-producing Covas tungsten project in Northern Portugal. Historic resources at Covas are 922,900 tonnes of 0.78 percent WO3, and expansion is very plausible, according to the company’s website. The project is a joint venture with Avrupa Minerals (TSXV:AVU)
Colt Resources (TSXV:GTP) also has an interest in the tungsten potential in Portugal. Its full focus is its 100-percent-owned, advanced-stage, high-grade gold and tungsten projects in the country. For instance, the Tabuaço asset is Colt’s main advanced-stage tungsten project. The site has indicated mineral resources of 1,495 thousand tonnes at 0.55 percent WO3, according to its resource estimate from October 2012.