Good Times Ahead: Tungsten Companies Making ProgressAt the end of April, UK-based Ormonde Mining (LSE:ORM) updated shareholders on its Barruecopardo tungsten project in Salamanca, Spain. Ormonde investors can rest easy as the company has found that since 2012, when costs for the project were originally estimated, there “has been no material change in the likely costs.” 

Tungsten market watchers, on the other hand, can get a little exited. Ormonde also reported that an independent market review by Tungsten Market Research strongly hints at continued growth in the tungsten sector. Demand, along with prices, is set to climb in the coming years, with tungsten likely to average $478 per metric ton unit (mtu) by 2018. That’s a good stretch away from the current tungsten price of US$365 per mtu.

With good times promised for tungsten, companies are taking the opportunity to move forward with their projects. Here’s a look at what some have been up to in the last few weeks.

Northcore Resources (TSXV:NCR) and Nuna Minerals (CSE:NUNA.CO) have inked a memorandum of understanding for the high-grade Ymer O tungsten-antimony-gold project in Greenland. Under an option agreement, Northcore will have the ability to earn in to the project via three phases. By spending US$4.6 million on exploration and development, the company can earn a 65-percent interest in Ymer O over a three-year period; the initial spend on exploration will total US$920,000. Northcore will also have the option to earn an additional 10-percent interest in the project by spending a further $2.5 million on exploration and development by 2019.

Ymer O has a history of high-grade drill results that remain open ended. Several other drill targets have been identified via airborne geophysical surveys.

On May 12, Blackheath Resources (TSXV:BHR) achieved a milestone by acquiring a 70-percent interest in the Covas tungsten project in Portugal; it did so by spending 1 million euros on the project. The project, owned by Avrupa Minerals (TSXV:AVU), covers an area of 19.96 square kilometers, with tungsten mineralization occurring in an area known as the skarn ring. So far, Blackheath has only tested about 40 percent of the area; however, the next phase of a geophysical IP program on the untested 60 percent is underway.

With the new program, the company is looking to determine new drill targets, as well as step-out targets adjacent to known high-grade historic resources. The hope is that any data collected will demonstrate that skarn mineralization is volumetrically larger than has been mapped at surface.

Blackheath is pleased to have cleared this latest milestone with regards to the past-producing Covas mine. “With the aid of the IP survey, Blackheath’s technical team has started to develop the strategy for our Phase 3 drilling campaign at Covas, which is scheduled to start next month,” commented CEO James Robertson.

Meanwhile, Hazelwood Resources (ASX:HAZ) looks to be on track to produce 1,500 tonnes of ferrotungsten from its Vietnam-based ATC project in the 2014 calendar year.

Hazelwood’s managing director, Terry Butler-Blaxell, said in a May 9 press release, “[t]he production figures speak for themselves and can do so on a quarterly basis now. Our grade is up, the operations are stable and our product has real traction in the market. Feedstock arrives, we process it regularly to meet customer requirements and the campaign based approach is not really relevant anymore. It’s quite satisfying to be a reliable producer of this niche product”

British Columbia-based Happy Creek Minerals (TSXV:HPY) announced a $525,000 non-brokered private placement through the sale of 3.5 million units priced at $0.15 per unit. The company intends to use the proceeds to “continue preparations and government permitting requirements for the exploration and drilling of primarily its Fox tungsten and Highland Valley copper projects, and for general working capital.”

Finally, ASX-listed Thor Mining (ASX:THR) reported another cost reduction, this time of 13 percent, at its Molyhil tungsten project in Australia’s Northern Territory. The company expects operating costs at Molyhil to be around AU$78 per tonne due to both the extension of the mine’s life from four to six years and recent improvements in processing and cost factors.

According to Mining Weekly, “Thor told shareholders that the improvements earmarked by the recent work included a 25% reduction in the ore mass to be processed at Molyhil, which would improve the grade of the ore and allow for the inclusion of some lower-grade material previously deemed uneconomic.”

 

Securities Disclosure: I, Vivien Diniz, hold no investment interest in any of the companies mentioned.