Scheelite and wolframite are the principal minerals currently mined for tungsten. Both occur in hard-rock deposits; wolframite is also recovered from placer deposits. Most current mine production of tungsten is from vein/stockwork, skarn, porphyry, and strata-bound deposits. Minor amounts are produced from disseminated, pegmatite, breccia, and placer deposits.
Most tungsten is used to make tungsten carbide and tungsten alloys for use in machine tools and drilling equipment. Other important applications are in lamp filaments and cathodes, high-speed steels, textile dyes, paints, and catalysts.
The world is well endowed with tungsten resources. China and the former Soviet Union have 8 of the world's 10 largest deposits; these 8 contain about half of the world's resources of tungsten. If economic conditions are suitable, world tungsten resources in known deposits and their extensions (categories R1 and R2), including economic, marginal, and subeconomic resources, are sufficient to permit world production to continue at 1995 levels until well into the 21st century.
World tungsten resources in identified deposits and districts that are currently economically exploitable (category R1E) appear to be sufficient to meet world demand at 1995 levels only until the year 2007. However, the figure for resources of this kind does not include or reflect resources whose economic parameters are unknown in major producing areas in the former Soviet Union, China, and other nonmarket-economy countries and thus severely underestimates future tungsten availability.
In 1995, China and the former Soviet Union accounted for over three-fourths of the world's mine production of tungsten. China alone produced about two-thirds of world output. Given its vast resources, China will likely maintain its prominent role in world tungsten supply. By the year 2020, changes in supply patterns are likely to result from declining output from individual deposits in Australia, Austria, and Portugal and the opening of new mines in Canada, China, and the United Kingdom.
First posted 1998
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Werner, A.B.T., Sinclair, W.D., and Amey, E.B., 2014, International strategic mineral issues summary report—Tungsten (ver. 1.1, November 2014): U.S. Geological Survey Circular 930–O, 74 p., https://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/0930/o/. [Supersedes version 1.0 published in 1998; revisions in 2014 by John H. DeYoung, Jr., and Kim B. Shedd.]
ISSN 2330-5703 (online)
Part 2—Selected Inventory Information on Tungsten Deposits and Districts
Additional References on Tungsten Resources
Revision History for Circular 930–O