American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Commerce Department warned of China’s grip on tungsten in 2009 report

    Largely known as a popular material for wedding bands, it is a little-known and under-reported fact that tungsten is one of the hottest commodities these days.

    While U.S. government agencies are miles away from speaking with one voice on the issue of critical minerals and metals, at least one agency, the Department of Commerce, has taken note of the strategic importance of tungsten and related issues in recent years. Here are a few points taken from its “Analysis of Tungsten,” contained in Appendix E of the Department of Defense’s 2009 Reconfiguration of the National Stockpile Report to Congress:

    · Operation of the only tungsten mine in the U.S. was suspended in 1995 because of depressed prices, largely owed to high levels of production and exports by China.
    · U.S. manufacturers get raw materials from concentrate imports and tungsten-bearing scrap as well as drawdown of National Defense Stockpile stocks of concentrate and powder.
    · Tungsten ore and concentrate imports came mainly from Bolivia and Portugal between 1996 and 2007, Russia and Kazakhstan until 2000, Canada since 2002. Imports from China occurred between 2000 and 2003.
    · For import of tungstates (produced from concentrate and undergoing chemical processing to yield metallic tungsten products), China has been main source.
    · China has about two-thirds of global tungsten reserves, with government controlling production through ownership and regulation.
    · China has increased its share of global concentrate production from 75% in 1995 to 85% in 2007, and is responsible for almost all of the 130% increase in global ore and concentrate output between 1995 and 2007.

    Concluding, the report warns of consequences of China’ restrictive export policies, and states that:

    Heavy reliance on imported material makes consuming industries vulnerable to fluctuations in the world price and availability of such inputs. China, for example, is a major producer of many of the materials for which the United States is heavily import reliant. (…)

    With the increases in world demand for many materials, such policies, if widely adopted, could result in severe distortions of global markets and a difficulty for U.S. manufacturers to obtain raw material inputs in a timely and cost competitive manner.

    That was three years ago. Unfortunately, policy makers on Capitol Hill are only now – and only slowly – realizing the scope of this problem. Here’s to hoping they’ll come up with something that isn’t too little, too late.

  • 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.

  • A look at tungsten shows why broad focus is needed for critical mineral strategy

    With this week’s WTO ruling on China’s raw materials exports (visit RareMetalBlog for our very own Daniel McGroarty’s take) all eyes are once again on rare earths – and for good reasons, as these critical elements are the poster child of the challenges associated with resource dependency. However, a broader focus is needed, and tungsten [...]
  • Rare earths and beyond: China is shaping India’s mineral policy

    In today’s globalized world, it doesn’t take a seat at the decision-making table for one nation to influence another’s domestic policies – a near-monopoly on critical mineral resources will do.  A case in point is India, which, after a seven-year hiatus, is expanding its indigenous Rare Earth Element (REE) production over growing concerns that China [...]