|The processing plant site in June 2014|
Production of tungsten is dominated by China, which has about 60 per cent of global reserves, but Drakelands could be the biggest tungsten mine in the Western World. However, since my last visit the price of tungsten, like most metals, has fallen markedly and Russell recently said that if prices were going to stay where they are now for the next 20 years the mine probably would not have been built, but he doesn't believe they will. In a recent interview in The Times (September 2nd 2015) he insisted that the market was at its lowest ebb. "There's going to be a point where people need to go back to the global market. At that point there will be a spike in the tungsten price and we should be in the perfect position to deal with it" he said. There are already signs that the weak market is forcing high-cost operators to shut down, and some private Chinese producers are beginning to close their operations.
No matter what happens, today was a very significant date in the mine's history, and I was privileged to be invited to the mine's official opening ceremony. Prior to that I joined the tour of the processing plant organised for media and brokers, and I was very impressed by how things have progressed since my last visit 14 months ago, the plant now producing 20 tonnes per week of tungsten concentrate.
Due to the high density of wolframite and the by-product cassiterite, gravity concentration dominates the flowsheet, DMS cyclones, spirals and shaking tables producing a combined W-Sn concentrate, from which arsenopyrite is removed by froth flotation.
|The DMS cyclone plant|
|Tables and spirals|