Tungsten industry

TUNGSTEN INDUSTRY (EN: tungsten industry; DE: Wolframindustrie; FR: industrie de tungstene, industrie tungstique; ES: industrie del tungsteno; RU: вольфрамовая промышленность) is the branch of the non-ferrous metallurgy, which is unifying the enterprises for the extraction and processing of the tungsten ores, and for the obtainment of tungsten. The major types of the tungsten produce are the metallic and cast carbides, the tungsten powders, and the chemical compounds. Tungsten has been used for the first time within Russia in the form of the additives for the steels at the Motovilikha industrial plant during the 1865, and at the Putilov and Izhora industrial plants during the 1896. For the electric lamps, there has used tungsten for the first time the Russian inventor A. N. Ladygin during the 1900. Since the start of the 20th century, the extraction of tungsten has started to expand rapidly, in association with its usage for the production of the high-speed steel, and of the incandescent lamps.

Within Russia, starting since the 1911, there was produced from 17 to 100 tonnes of the concentrate per year. The extraction was conducted at the small deposits of the Ural mountains and eastern Transbaikalia. The establisment of the raw materials base for the tungsten industry has been started during the 30-ies, when there have been created the mining enterprises at the Ural mountains (Boevskoe, South-Konevskoe, Buranovskoe, and so on), within the Central Asia (Lyangarskoe), and within the eastern Transbaikalia (Sherlovogorskoe, and so on), and by the 1940, there have been brought into the operation the deposits Tyrnyauz of the molybdenite-scheelite ores at the Northern Caucasus, and Holtoson of the wolframite ores within the western Transbaikalia. Starting since the 50-ies, there have been explored and mastered the tungsten deposits within Kazakhstan (Karaoba, Akchatau), Central Asia (Chorukh-Dayron, Ingichka), and at the Far East (Iultin). By the 80-ies, there form the raw materials base of the tungsten industry within the USSR the several tens of the bedrock deposits, which are sub-divided into the three industrial types: the quartz-wolframite veins and veinous zones (5% of the all-Union reserves); the tabular, vein-shaped, and of the irregular shape depositions of the skarn-scheelite and greisen-wolframite ores (30%); the stockworks and vein-stockwork zones (65%). 80% of the total reserves are associated with the scheelite type of the ores. The most known enterprises are: the Tyrnyauz Mining-Metallurgical Combined Enterprise (Kabardino-Balkan ASSR), the Dzhidinsky Mining-Beneficiation Combined Enterprise (Buryat ASSR), the Primorsky Mining-Beneficiation Combined Enterprise and Iultinsky Mining-Beneficiation Combined Enterprise (Russian Federation).

The beneficiation of the low-sulfide tungsten ores (of the hübnerite types, and of the ferberite types) is performed using the gravitational method on the jigging machines and concentration tables, with the refinement of the concentrate, which has been obtained, with the help of the magnetic separation. In case of the significant amount of the sulphides within the ore, it is subjected to the preliminary roasting. The extraction of the wolframite, depending on the quality of the ores, amounts to from 52 to 70-85%. The major method for the beneficiation of the scheelite ores is the flotation, in case of which the extraction of the scheelite into the concentrate reaches 80-90%. The complex ores, which are containing the wolframite and scheelite, are beneficiated according to the more developed gravity-flotation schemes. Often, before the major beneficiation, there is performed the preliminary sorting of the ore for the separation of the waste rock (the selective crushing, the separation within the heavy suspensions, the luminiscent and photometric separation, and also the nuclear-physical methods). As the result of the hydrometallurgical processing of the concentrates, they obtain one of the following products in the form of the powder: tungsten trioxide (WO3), tungstic acid (H2WO4), sodium tungstate (Na2WO4 • 2H2O), calcium tungstate (CaWO4). The harmful admixtures within the concentrate, namely, phosphorus, sulfur, arsenic, and others, are limited by the GOST 213-73 standard. According to the content of the tungsten trioxide (55-65%) and admixtures, namely, manganese oxide (0.1-18%), silica (1.2-10%), phosphorus (0.02-0.3%), sulfur (0.3-1.5%), arsenic (0.02-0.2%), copper (0.05-0.4%), molybdenum (0.01-4.5%), tin (0.01-1.0%), within the USSR, there have been distinguished the 10 marks of the tungsten concentrate. From the collective sulphidic concentrate, in the series of the cases, they extract along the way gold and silver. At the metallurgical stage of the processing of the concentrates, there may be extracted tantalum, niobium, scandium, and other elements-admixtures.

The tungsten industry is well developed within Mongolia (the Bürentsogt enterprise), Vietnam (the deposits within the Tintuk, and Tamdao regions), Czechoslovakia (the Ore Mountains, Slavkov Forest, and others).

The "Amax" American mining-metallurgical monopoly owns completely or partly the resources of the tungsten ores within the USA, Canada, Australia, and certain developing countries through its own subsidiaries. The capacities of the tungsten enterprises amount to from 300-500 to 1500-2000 tonnes per day in terms of the ore. The productivity of the labour at the largest underground mines (Canada) reaches 25 tonnes of the ore per worker per shift (at the small enterprises, approximately 2 tonnes per shift). There are being developed using the opencast method the Flat River deposit within Canada (with the content of 2.5% of the WO3 within the ore), the King Island (0.75% of the WO3), and Mount Carbine (0.1% of the WO3) deposits within Australia, and the Mittersill (0.7% of the WO3) deposit within Austria. The comparatively new producer of tungsten within the Western Europe is Austria, where, since the 1975, within Styria, there has been started the development of the scheelite deposit. The total worldwide production of the tungsten concentrates has sharply increased since the 60-ies (see the Figure # 1).

The extraction of the tungsten ores, and the production of the concentrate, are concentrated mostly within the USA, Bolivia, Australia, South Korea, Thailand, and Canada (see the Table).

The largest enterprises (the annual productive capacity, thousands of tonnes) are: the "Cantung" (Canada) of the "Canada Tungsten" company (2.6), the "Sandon" (South Korea) of the "Korea Tungsten" company (2.2), the "King" (Australia) of the "King Island Scheelite" firm (1.9), the "Pine Creek" (USA), of the "Union Carbide" firm (1.4), the "Mittersill" (Austria) of the "Metallgesellschaft" company (1.2), the "Panasqueira" (Portugal) of the "Beralt Tin and Wolfram" company (1.0). The production of tungsten within the industrially developed capitalistic and developing countries during the 1980 has amounted to (within the concentrate) 24.9 thousand tonnes (see the Figure # 2).

Since the start of the 60-ies, there is performed the structural rebuilding of the tungsten industry. The system of the specialized centres for the individual stages of the production of tungsten (extraction, beneficiation, production of the ferrotungsten, metal, carbide, and so on), which existed earlier, is replaced by the mining-industrial complexes according to the principle of the vertical integration. The prospects for the development of the tungsten industry are associated primarily with the mastering of the new deposits. These works are financed mostly by the American financial capital. Within Canada, with the participation of the "Amax" corporation, there has been discovered the largest Logtung deposit of the tungsten ores within the country, with the reserves of 160 million tonnes of the ore, with the content of the WO3 of 0.12%, and of the MoS2 of 0.05%. The same company has acquired the right for the operation of the Mactung scheelite ores on the border between the Yukon and Northwest Territories of Canada, with the total reserves of 32 million tonnes, with the average content of the WO3 of 0.96%, including 4.4 million tonnes with the content of the WO3 of 1.41%. Within Australia, the reserves of the Mount Mulgine deposit, which belongs to the "Union Carbide" American monopoly, account for 80 million tonnes of the ore, with the content of the WO3 of 0.15%, and of the MoS2 of 0.6%. This deposit may be developed using the opencast method. Within the United Kingdom, there has been explored the Hemerdon deposit (45 million tonnes of the ore, with the content of the WO3 of 0.17%, and of the Sn of 0.02%).

The tungsten concentrate is the object of the active international commerce. On the account of the import, there are satisfied more than 70% of the requirements for this product within the capitalistic countries of the world (17.5 thousand tonnes in terms of the content of the metal during the 1980). The major suppliers of this concentrate are: Bolivia, Australia, Canada, Thailand, South Korea. The major countries-consumers of tungsten (in terms of the tonnes, 1980) are: the USA (9268), Japan (2931), Austria (2321), Sweden (2155), the United Kingdom (1462), West Germany (1449), South Korea (1434), Brazil (928), France (841), the Netherlands (400).