Occurrence of Tungsten

Tungsten, symbolized as W and with an atomic number of 74, primarily exists in the form of chemical compounds within several minerals. It is notably found in wolframite ((Fe,Mn)WO4) and scheelite (CaWO4), the two most significant ores from which tungsten is extracted. These minerals are usually located within quartz veins and pegmatitic rocks, formed through the final stages of crystallization of granitic magmas. The elemental formation of tungsten in the Earth's crust involves complex geological processes, including high-temperature hydrothermal systems and the differentiation of magma, which contribute to its relatively scarce distribution. Despite being the 57th most abundant element in the Earth's crust, tungsten's specific geological formation processes and the rarity of its ores highlight its unique position among metals in terms of availability and extraction difficulty.

Tungsten ranks as the 57th most abundant element in the Earth's crust, with an estimated abundance of approximately 1.5 parts per million (ppm). This scarcity in abundance further underscores the challenges associated with its extraction and utilization. Most commonly, tungsten is found in the form of wolframite and scheelite within high-temperature quartz veins, skarn deposits, and greisen. These geological formations are often associated with the late-stage cooling and crystallization processes of granitic intrusions. Additionally, tungsten deposits can also occur in pegmatites and within metamorphic rocks where high heat and pressure conditions facilitate the formation of this metal. The geographical distribution of these deposits varies globally, with significant concentrations found in China, Russia, and the United States, reflecting the localized nature of suitable geological environments for tungsten formation.

The geographic distribution of tungsten deposits is highly concentrated in specific areas around the world, predominantly due to the unique geological settings required for its formation. China holds the position as the world's largest producer of tungsten, courtesy of its substantial deposits particularly located in the Jiangxi and Hunan provinces. These areas are known for their extensive high-temperature quartz veins and skarn deposits, which are rich in both wolframite and scheelite ores. Following China, Russia emerges as another significant player in the tungsten market, with notable deposits in the Eastern regions of Siberia. The United States also contributes to the global tungsten supply, with significant mining operations in the state of Nevada, exploiting the wolframite and scheelite deposits within its vast mountain ranges. Other countries with considerable tungsten reserves include Canada, particularly in the Yukon territory, and Bolivia in South America, where the Cerro Rico and Colavi regions harbor large reserves of wolframite ore. The localized nature of these significant deposits underlines the geological rarity and the special conditions necessary for tungsten's formation, making these regions critical to the global supply of this valuable metal.

The formation of tungsten deposits is a testament to the planet's complex geological ballet, involving multiple processes over extensive periods. Key to the formation of tungsten ores like wolframite and scheelite are high-temperature hydrothermal systems, where heated, mineral-rich waters emanate from the cooling magma deep within the Earth. These solutions infiltrate and react with the surrounding rock, depositing minerals in fractures and voids, which eventually crystallize to form ore bodies. The presence of granitic intrusions, acting as the parent magma, is crucial; as these bodies cool, the residual fluids become enriched in tungsten and other elements, facilitating the crystallization of tungsten minerals in the surrounding rock. Geologists and mining companies utilize a combination of geological surveys, geochemical analysis, and remote sensing techniques to identify potential tungsten deposits. Geological surveys help in mapping the surface and subsurface rock formations, looking for signs of hydrothermal alteration and the types of rock formations (like skarns or pegmatites) associated with tungsten deposits. Geochemical analysis of soil, rock, and water samples can detect anomalous concentrations of tungsten and accompanying pathfinder elements, indicating the proximity to a deposit. Remote sensing technologies, such as satellite imagery and aerial photography, enable the identification of alteration patterns and structures that are characteristic of tungsten mineralization zones. Together, these methodologies provide a systematic approach to locating tungsten deposits, guiding exploratory drilling and subsequent mining efforts to extract this valuable resource efficiently.

Back to the Guide: What is Tungsten

Where is Tungsten Found

Tungsten reserves are coveted for their strategic and industrial importance, and they are distributed unevenly across the globe. The predominant holder of tungsten resources is China, with the provinces of Jiangxi and Hunan being especially notable for their extensive deposits. Following China in significance, Russia boasts considerable reserves, particularly in the Eastern Siberian region, where tungsten mining forms a crucial part of the local economy. In North America, Canada is recognized for its tungsten deposits, with the Yukon territory emerging as a key mining area. The United States also has meaningful contributions, particularly from Nevada, where both wolframite and scheelite are mined. Moving towards South America, Bolivia stands out for its substantial reserves, notably in the Cerro Rico and Colavi regions, reputed for their large wolframite deposits. Apart from these, other countries like Vietnam, Portugal, and Austria also host significant tungsten resources, contributing to the global supply chain of this critical metal. Each of these locations presents unique geological features that favor the occurrence of tungsten, underscoring the diversity and complexity of its formation and extraction processes worldwide.

The estimated reserves of tungsten globally underscore its uneven distribution and the strategic importance of the regions that house these resources. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), China leads with the largest estimated reserves of tungsten, believed to be over 1.9 million metric tons, which accounts for about 60% of the world's total reserves. This dominant position is a testament to the extensive high-temperature quartz vein systems and skarn deposits found within its borders. Russia follows, with its reserves estimated at around 400,000 metric tons, showcasing the significance of its Eastern Siberian deposits to the global tungsten supply. The United States, with reserves primarily located in Nevada, holds about 140,000 metric tons, demonstrating the country's smaller yet significant contribution to the global reserves. Canada and Bolivia also contribute to the global tungsten reserves, with Canada's Yukon territory and Bolivia's Cerro Rico and Colavi regions being noteworthy. However, their exact reserve figures are less documented, reflecting the need for further exploration and assessment.

These reserves place the aforementioned countries at the forefront of the global tungsten supply chain, evidently highlighting China's unparalleled influence due to its substantial reserves. The geographical concentration of these reserves also indicates the special geological conditions required for tungsten formation, which are not widespread globally. This distribution pattern not only emphasizes the strategic importance of these regions but also underscores the challenges and opportunities in tungsten mining and global supply dynamics.

In exploring the geological settings of major tungsten-producing areas, we observe a fascinating diversity in the earth's crust composition and structure that leads to the formation of tungsten reserves.

Where is Tungsten Found

Tungsten Mining

The extraction of tungsten from ore comprises a sequence of complex yet fascinating processes. These can be broadly categorized into mining, processing, and refining stages, each with its own set of methodologies and technologies.Tungsten mining is executed through two primary methods: open-pit mining and underground mining. The selection between these two methods depends on various factors, including the depth of the orebody, the grade of the ore, and the surrounding geological environment. Once the tungsten ore is extracted, it undergoes a series of processing steps to separate the valuable tungsten from the waste rock. The yield rates of tungsten mining and processing vary significantly based on the ore grade, the efficiency of the concentration and extraction processes, and the specific characteristics of the ore body. Generally, tungsten ores have a relatively low yield rate, with a significant amount of ore processed to produce a relatively small amount of pure tungsten. This high input-to-output ratio underscores the value of tungsten and the importance of efficient and sustainable mining practices. The entire process, from extraction to refining, is robust and requires meticulous planning and execution to minimize environmental impact and ensure the sustainability of resources.

In recent years, technological advancements have significantly improved the efficiency and environmental sustainability of tungsten mining. Innovations in automation and robotics have been game-changers, allowing for more precise drilling and blasting, reducing waste, and enhancing safety by minimizing human exposure to hazardous conditions. The use of electric-powered mining equipment over diesel machines has also seen a rise, contributing to lower greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the carbon footprint of mining operations. Additionally, advancements in ore processing technologies have optimized the extraction and refining processes. Techniques like sensor-based ore sorting have revolutionized the way ore is selected for processing, significantly reducing energy consumption and water use by eliminating less valuable material early in the process. Meanwhile, hydrometallurgical processing methods have emerged as a less environmentally damaging alternative to traditional smelting techniques, using aqueous solutions to extract tungsten at lower temperatures and with fewer toxic emissions. These technological developments not only advance the operational efficiency of tungsten mining but also pave the way for a more sustainable and eco-friendly mineral extraction industry.

Tungsten Mining


At Bonzerbands, we know that your wedding day and honeymoon are some of the most incredible times in your life, and we want to help make them extra special. That's why we decided to start a program that can help foster that adventurous spirit in all of us, and take off on one of the most wild experiences of your life - and we want to pay for it!