Almonty’s CEO Talks Tungsten and the Eurozone Crisis

Colleted by Chinatungsten Online-Spain is home to Almonty Industries‘ (TSXV:AII) Los Santos project, one of the only producing tungsten mines in the western world. Spain is also now center stage in the Eurozone crisis. The world is waiting to see whether its government will request a bailout, which some insist is necessary to help the country lower its borrowing costs to sustainable rates. Inquiring minds may wonder what impact conditions in Europe are having on the business of producing and selling a rare metal like tungsten. Almonty’s CEO, Lewis Black, provided Tungsten Investing News with some insight.

While it operates in Europe, Almonty is not directly exposed to market conditions there. The company exports all of its tungsten to North America, a market that Black says has held up well. Still, the company does not exist in a bubble and therefore has not been able to completely insulate itself against the region’s crisis.

“No one wants to carry [tungsten] inventory given the uncertainty in Europe,” Black said, outlining the first effect the company has noted. “Consumers only buy what they need and they are working down the inventories that they have. Understand that this is not based on fundamentals, but purely on uncertainty.”

Some may find that surprising as many consumers have been pushing to secure access to supply outside of China.

I will probably get shot for saying this, but there is very little partnership between consumers and producers in the tungsten business,” said Black.

“Consumers’ primary concern is to keep their costs low, and they operate with no real regard for what will happen to the producers. Consumers feel that they can always get a bit [of tungsten] here and bit there and for years they have been. Now, I really don’t understand it because the quantity and quality of that supply is dwindling, but this is how they operate. So the producers have a tough time, no doubt about it.”

Another effect, according to Black, is that everything costs more.

“Costs are up 20 to 25 percent over five years ago, but the lead times are double. You have to be more creative in obtaining heavy equipment because it seems manufacturers would rather work for more money over longer periods.”

Black explained that manufacturers have reduced staff on their assembly lines and have outsourced those jobs. The companies that they have outsourced to are generally smaller. In Europe, small and mid-sized businesses have no access to credit; that slows down production times because many can’t keep large supplies of simple components, such as rubber seals. And given the broader sense of uncertainty, companies with the cash, like everyone else, aren’t prone to risk tying it up in inventory.

One solution to this problem that Almonty has found is to turn to the “thriving second-hand market” for equipment.

“We have always been creative in getting things done. We built Los Santos on a shoestring. We had less than a quarter million dollars and no credit,” Black said.

During the Eurozone crisis, much emphasis has been placed on the strength of the region’s banks and the possibility that the euro may not be able to survive. Black does not believe in risking the farm, so Almonty has taken precautions to protect against worst-case scenarios.

The company has moved all its accounts out of Spanish banks. It was able to do so with no obstacles because it made moves at the end of 2011.

“There were already rumblings about Spanish banks back then. We left the party before the parents got home, so to speak,” said Black.

He said hedging does not make sense for the company. It invoices in dollars and converts into euros only the sums needed to cover accounts payable.

“Honestly, we don’t understand how the euro has held up as well as it has. They say the market is never wrong, but it makes absolutely no sense for the euro to be as high as it is.”

On Wednesday the euro got stronger, reaching a one-month high against the dollar. Equity markets also moved higher, partly because Moody’s decided not to downgrade Spain’s credit rating to junk status, but largely on speculation that the country’s officials are moving closer to finalizing the request for a bailout.

Whether or not the country actually makes this request may be important in some circles, but not for Almonty and not for tungsten.

“I truly do not believe Spain is a risk country,” Black said. “The Spanish are creative and resilient people. They are very smart people. I have absolute confidence they will get it together. It’s not going to be easy or pretty. But they are proud people and they will not allow themselves to fail and certainly not to fail in the eyes of the world.”

“Even if something were to happen with the euro or somebody leaves the union, Europe is still going to be there. Tungsten is still a global material,” said Black.

“We are likely to see this hand-to-mouth policy among consumers for the rest of the year. Then we expect that they will start to rebuild inventories in the first quarter of 2013.”

He also insisted that the conditions in Spain and the Eurozone crisis overall will not have any impact on the company’s decisions for future investment in the region as long as the company has access to the right people for any project that it might consider.

“Europe has some of the best skilled technical people in the world. Spain and Portugal have always been supportive of mining. And we would always be interested in pursuing projects in any place that supports mining,” Black said.

That then leads to the question of investors’ confidence. Do investors continue to value Almonty as one of the few tungsten plays outside of China, or are they heaping the company into the larger EU risk basket?

“Our investors appreciate that we are not exposed to Europe, as far as where our material goes,” Black said. “I don’t think they view us through the risk of Europe. And I don’t think they look at the country we operate in. They just want to see us do what we told them we would do. If we can’t deliver on our promises, then we have problems.”

 

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Tungsten Concentrate Prices Go Down gradually, More Traders Wait and See

Currently, domestic tungsten concentrate prices reduce gradually. Today, mainstream 65% tungsten concentrate price based on Ganzhou focuses on ¥112,000.00-115,000.00/mt, more than 60% scheelite concentrate quotation based on Hunan is ¥110.000.00-114.000.00/mt.

According to observation, the ship atmosphere in the market is relatively weak, some tungsten concentrate suppliers quit the spot market because of low delivery prices and high difficulty to deal. More traders choose to hold wait and see attitude. In the end of year, the demand and supply situation may be even weaker in the tungsten concentrate market. Chinatungsten Online expects, tungsten products price and tungsten concentrate price will go down constantly in near future.

 

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Scrap Tungsten Market is Inactive, Tragedy Attidude Spreads out

The mainstream scrap tungsten price maintains steady. The transaction price excluding tax of domestic blade is ¥171.00-¥174.00/kg; imported blade is ¥181-183/kg; scrap tungsten bit still concentrates on ¥187.00-¥190.00/kg scrap pure tungsten block is ¥208.00-¥213.00/kg.

The price of the content of scrap tungsten grinding material which is more than 70W is ¥1.70 per kilogram tungsten, 50W-70W is ¥1.60 per kilogram tungsten, 30W-40W is ¥1.40 per kilogram tungsten, 10-20W is ¥0.80 per kilogram tungsten while 8W-10W is ¥0.70 per kilogram tungsten, which keep steady constantly.

Tungsten concentrate spot prices stay weak. Other kinds of tungsten products cannot avoid dropping destiny. Under the support of short resource, scrap tungsten prices has been hold relatively, but small transaction volume has been realized. Scrap tungsten suppliers’ attitude becomes more cautious and more willing to wait and see. Chinatungsten Online predicts scrap tungsten prices will keep steady generally but falling feebly.

 

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Tungsten Concentrate Prices Move Down Continuously

Core tips: The need of sodium tungstate remains weak, transaction prices are running at low level while few deals can be seen in tungsten carbide market.

Situation of tungsten concentrate market is that raw material traders are not eager to ship and the quotation is under restriction. Prices of individual tungsten products from downstream reduce by lower purchasing cost. The need of sodium tungstate remains weak, transaction prices are running at low level while few deals can be seen in tungsten carbide market, and the prices focus on ¥270.00/kg. The overall tungsten concentrate prices keeps falling, and some traders hold low expectation toward tungsten concentrate market in near future.

 

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Tungsten Mining Commences Drilling Program

Tungsten Mining (ASX:TGN) has followed up yesterday's Initial Public Offering on the ASX with the announcement that drilling has commenced on its flagship Kilba Tungsten Project in Western Australia. 

Tungsten says it is concentrating on rapidly evaluating and developing the site, which hosts a high grade scheelite deposit with potential to support a mining project. 

The diversified miner holds a 100 per cent entitlement to a mining lease within the Kilba, and has completed the first phase of its drilling program, comprising 8 diamind core holes. 

Tungsten says the drilling program, alongside its admission to the ASX, represents a significant milestone towards becoming a developer. 

Tungsten Mining listed on the ASX yesterday, closing the day at $0.205.

 

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Research Team Aims to Make Tungsten Light Bulbs a Viable Option

Sergei Belousov and his colleagues at Moscow’s Kintech Lab in collaboration with scientists at the GE Global Research Center in New York state have discovered an application for photonics crystals that can improve light emitting efficiency of tungsten. This may lead to a complete redesign of the light bulb at we know it.

tungsten light bulb

Belousov and his team wanted to find out whether a nanostructure of tungsten can be engineered to create a photonic visible light-emitting infrared light. The team studied the theoretical properties of nanoscopic tungsten log piles and spheres embedded in another medium. They tested their data after creating a tungsten photonic crystal to measure the amount of emitted light occurring at different frequencies. What they discovered is that the structure emits less infrared light while having 15% efficiency – much higher than standard bulk materials.

Why is this important? Belousov and team’s research indicates improvements on the technology are possible. However, more research and testing are needed to determine whether the use of tungsten in light bulbs can achieve widespread use. Compact fluorescent bulbs match the light output of a 100 Watt tungsten bulb using less than 30 Watts, and LED bulbs can by less than 20 Watts. Belousov and his team may have their work cut out, but they believe they have a chance.

 

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Tungsten Concentrate Demand is Going Worse, Real Transaction Price Even Lower

At present, the demand of tungsten concentrate becomes worse that suppliers are not confident with market in near future. Today, mainstream 65% tungsten concentrate price based on Ganzhou focuses on ¥115,000.00/mt, real transaction price could as low as ¥112,000.00/mt, more than 60% scheelite concentrate quotation based on Hunan is ¥113.000.00/mt.

According to the analysis of Chinatungsten Online, the situation of supply exceeds demand is hard to reverse in short time. Some tungsten concentrate suppliers are hurried to get cash that they are more willing to ship. However, the demand of downstream users, few deals can be seen. Under this situation, price range goes narrow that delivery price shows its downward trend. Chinatungsten Online expects, tungsten concentrate prices will keep weak, but the price will hold above ¥110,000.00/mt.

 

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Final £13m Secured for Hemerdon Tungsten Mine

The final £13m has been secured to revive tungsten mining on the edge of Dartmoor.

Australian-based company Wolf Minerals now has £140m for the project in Devon, although the final £13m is yet to be signed off by shareholders.

Once reopened, the mine could produce 3000 tons tungsten and tins a year

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