Speciality Metals International (ASX: SEI) is transitioning from a junior explorer to tungsten producer at its Mt Carbine project in Queensland’s north.
It is now gearing up to mine at Mt Carbine, with Australia, as a whole, hosting the world’s second largest tungsten resources (but, so far, almost no production).
In fact, the company’s latest presentation says that Speciality Metals is positioning to be a (ex-China) top three tungsten producer.
At this week’s annual meeting, chairman Oliver Kleinhempel told shareholders that the company is focused on critical and new economy minerals.
Tungsten is one of those
Mr Kleinhempel said that tungsten has, just a few weeks ago, been recognised by the European Commission as having the highest economic importance of all raw materials in the European industrial system.
It is “already listed by the US, Japan, India and Australia as a critical mineral.
“Bottom line: our team is committed to enhancing Specialty Metals existing portfolio and business model to contribute to this globally relevant agenda,” he added.
Mt Carbine stockpiles first, then hard rock mining
The company owns the Mt Carbine deposit, 120km northeast of Cairns in far north Queensland.
The tungsten was discovered in the late 19th century and has been a periodic producer since.
It was last mined between 1973 and 1987 when, the company says, it produced “exceptionally high-grade” concentrate.
The deposit is open at depth and to the north and is regarded a “relatively unexplored”.
There are historic workings several hundred metres to the north of the northern-most drill hole.
Speciality Metals says it has the ability to utilise more of the low-grade resource with a modern X-ray ore sorter, a technology not available in the 1970s and 1980s.
Additionally, the company aims to mine a series of high-grade tungsten King Veins identified in recent resource reinterpretation.
Speciality Metals plans to spend four to six years re-treating existing stockpiles and produce about 100 tonnes a month of wolfram oxide (the other name for tungsten) before moving on to hard rock mining.
The company recently began supplying waste aggregate rock to a regional highway upgrade project as part of a $4 million dollar contract with Bama Civil, which is upgrading the Peninsula Road in the Cooke Shire.
Australia lagging in tungsten production
According to Geoscience Australia, this country has the world’s second largest tungsten resources after China — in all, about 12%.
We have more known tungsten than either Russia (6%) or Vietnam (3%), but very little production.
Speciality Metals, in a recent presentation, listed China as producing 61,000t per annum, Vietnam 6,100t and Russia 2,590t — but Australia just 5th.
Bolivia, Austria and the UK all mine more tungsten than Australia.
Speciality Metals argues that there is, on top of its own mine plans, the potential to form a tungsten cluster in far north Queensland, Mt Carbine being in relative proximity to two other proven deposits, Watershed owned by Tungsten Mining (ASX: TGN) and Wolfram Camp, owned by Toronto-listed Almonty Industries.
Global metals demand has more than doubled over the past 30 years and EQ Resources’ strategy is to produce the critical minerals in high demand to meet the global transition in industry, energy and sustainability.