It is a general rule of thumb that the world tungsten market follows the trajectory of the global macroeconomic situation. This has become especially evident during the world economic downturn of 2009 when the world tungsten production fell to a trough of around 64,450 mty from c. 67,500 mty in 2008. Since that time, tungsten production has been gradually growing to the current level of 95,000 mty in 2017.
The influence of macroeconomic factors is crucial, but the reality is much more complex, with different interconnected forces at play. Current bullish mood of the global tungsten market, tungsten price hikes and strong demand for tungsten from multiple high-tech sectors are tainted with market imbalances and trade wars. The latter is manifested in the fact that tungsten ores and some related products are included in the US lists of duty-affected imports from China.
Presently, China remains a leading tungsten manufacturer, consumer, and exporter by a wide margin.
Top five countries in tungsten mine production (2017)
This country, which is currently undergoing a painful process of transformation of its chemical, mining and industrial sectors, has been reducing the number of environmentally hazardous manufacturing facilities and curtailing the export of strategic raw materials, including rare earth metals. This fully applies to the Chinese tungsten market, as the Chinese government scrutinized the process of obtaining tungsten-mining and export licenses, forbade foreign investment in tungsten exploration/mining, and increased the number of environmental inspections. Apart from such environmental concerns, Chinese tungsten sector is concerned with the depletion of local tungsten resources. China is now more interested in how to diminish tungsten exports, increase the level and depth of tungsten processing in order to supply more value-added products and raise the degree of vertical integration among tungsten-related production entities of primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Such policies will be instrumental in safeguarding the leading position of China on the global tungsten market.
More information on the global tungsten market can be found in the comprehensive research study “Tungsten: 2018 World Market Review and Forecast to 2027”.