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Happy Tungsten Month – highlighting a “stepchild” in the latest WTO case

If you haven’t lived under a rock, you will know that there’s a new WTO case brought on by the United States, Japan and the EU over China’s restrictive mineral policies, specifically focusing on the country’s near total rare earths supply monopoly. The media has been all over it, and that’s a positive development, as it highlights the United States’ mineral supply issues. A lesser-known fact is that the new trade dispute also encompasses two other minerals – molybdenum and tungsten.

While underreported, it’s not a coincidence that these two elements are part of the case, as they, too, are critical components in “green” and high-tech applications (tungsten being increasingly critical in touch screen technology, for example) with China controlling significant quantities of global output.

Hence our decision to showcase one of the two “stepchildren” in the WTO case reporting – tungsten – as our “metal of the month” this April.

Here are a few tungsten facts to get us started:

· Tungsten is one of the hardest and most dense metals in existence, and has the highest melting point of all non-alloyed metals.

· It is used for hardening a variety of tools, bullets, and other military applications, as well as electrical applications.

· The U.S. import dependency rate for tungsten is currently at 36%, lower than in previous years, due to increased scrap consumption.

· However, with China controlling most of the world’s output, the tungsten supply outlook stays troublesome, leading the British Geological Survey to rank it as one of the metals most prone to supply disruptions.

With the U.S. fortunate to house significant tungsten deposits according to the USGS, it’s time to bring this metal into the debate over our critical mineral needs. Stay tuned for more for tungsten-related updates on blog, as well as on Twitter and Facebook throughout the month.