Tungsten (W) metal and its alloys are amongst the hardest of all metals and tungsten itself has the highest melting point of all pure metals. The combination of its hardness and high temperature capabilities make it desirable for many commercial and industrial applications. Tungsten's range of properties also makes it difficult to substitute with other metals. It occurs as wolframite, which is an iron manganese tungstate mineral ([Fe, Mg]WO4), and scheelite (CaWO4). The major use for tungsten is within cemented carbides, which are also called hard metals. Tungsten carbide has a hardness approaching that of diamond and is used for cutting and in wear-resistant materials, primarily in the metalworking, mining, oil drilling and construction industries. Tungsten alloys are used also in electrodes, filaments (light bulbs), wires and components for electrical, heating, lighting and welding applications. Tungsten is used also in chemical applications, including as catalysts, as well as pigments for paints. Ferrotungsten (FeW) is a high value-added intermediate product and is used in steels and alloys where hardness and heat resistance are required. Tungsten is commonly supplied as mineral concentrates typically with 65% or more contained tungsten trioxide (WO3). A number of secondary tungsten compounds are also important. These include ammonium paratungstate (APT), tungsten trioxide (WO3), ferrotungsten (FeW), tungsten carbide (WC), as well as tungsten metal.
Australia's total Economic Demonstrated Resources (EDR) of tungsten at December 2012 was 391 kilotonnes (kt), a moderate increase from 376 kt in 2011. Increases in EDR were recorded in both Queensland (Qld) and Tasmania (Tas). Australia's EDR are in deposits at Dolphin and Bold Head on King Island in Bass Strait off Tas, Kara and Mount Lindsay in Tas, at Watershed, Mount Carbine and Wolfram Camp in Qld, O'Callaghans, Big Hill and Mount Mulgine in Western Australia (WA) and Molyhil in the Northern Territory (NT). The majority of Australia's EDR of tungsten are in WA, accounting for about 61%, most of which is in the O'Callaghans deposit (about 50%). Other significant EDR are in Tas which has 21% and Qld with 15.5%.In 2012, Subeconomic Demonstrated Resources (comprising Paramarginal and Submarginal Resources) were 16 kt, which is equivalent to 4% of the total Demonstrated Resources. Inferred Resources decreased slightly from 107 kt in 2011 to 102 kt in 2012. Queensland accounts for 43% of Inferred Resources, followed by WA with 36%, Tas with 11% and New South Wales (NSW) with 8%.
All of Australia's EDR for tungsten are accessible.
Joint Ore Reserve Committee (JORC) Code reserves comprise total tungsten in Proved and Probable Ore Reserves as defined in the JORC Code. In 2012, JORC Code reserves of 201 kt (up from 182 kt in 2011) accounted for approximately 51% of Accessible Economic Demonstrated Resources (AEDR).
Data on exploration expenditure for tungsten are not reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
During 2012, an estimated 290 tonnes of tungsten was produced as concentrates, a large increase over the 15 tonnes produced in 2011, which reflected the start of tungsten production in early 2012 at Wolfram Camp and Mount Carbine in north Qld.
In 2012, world economic resources of tungsten are estimated to be around 3488 kt based on United States Geological Survey (USGS) data and updated by Geoscience Australia for Australia’s resources. According to the USGS, China holds approximately 54.5% of the world economic resources followed by Australia with 11.2%, Russia with 7.2% and the USA with 4%.The USGS estimates that world production of tungsten in 2012 amounted to 73 kt, which was similar to production in 2011. China was the major producer with approximately 84%, followed by Russia with 4.8%. Production for the USA was not recorded for reasons of confidentiality. Over the past few years, the Chinese Government has restricted the amount of its tungsten ores that can be offered on the world market by applying export quotas and taxes, favouring instead the export of value-added, downstream tungsten materials and products.