Tungsten: IFG Capital and SUN Group sign agreement for US$300M Uzbek mine hub

IFG Metals & Mining, a division of investment company IFG Capital Partners SA, has signed an agreement along with co-investor SUN Group, a private equity fund manager, for exclusive rights to undertake feasibility studies on seven tungsten deposits in Uzbekistan. 

The agreement, signed with the State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Geology and Mineral Resources (“GOSCOMGEOLOGY”) on 28 September 2018, enables IFG and SUN Group to establish a significant tungsten production cluster, following successful completion of the feasibility studies.

The projects, located in the Samarqand, Navoi, and Jizzax regions of Uzbekistan, could together produce around 7,140tpy of tungsten concentrate (containing around 3,670tpy W), although production will be staggered, with commercial production scheduled to start between 2019 and 2036 across all deposits. IFG plans to build two mobile processing facilities to serve the deposits and export 100% of the tungsten produced to North America and the EU.

IFG and SUN Group are also evaluating the potential for refining some of this output into ammonium paratungstate (APT), the main tungsten intermediate chemical. Should all APT projects be developed, this would amount to 4,370tpy APT capacity (3,060tpy contained W). 

Roskill view: IFG and SUN Group have set out an ambitious development timeline for the cluster, with production from the first deposit – Yakhton – planned to begin in July 2019. The announcement is well-timed for the market, with delegates at the International Tungsten Industry Association conference in Chengdu, China, in September hearing that around 10-12ktpy of new tungsten mine supply (contained W) will be required by 2028, according to Roskill forecasts.

Several new tungsten mines have been developed in recent years, including the Nui Phao operation in Vietnam, and the Drakelands project located at Hemerdon in the UK. Concentrates availability outside China has remained tight, however, with Nui Phao material all destined for use in the company’s tungsten oxide facility, while Wolf Minerals has experienced issues ramping up Drakelands to full capacity.

On 27 September 2018, Wolf Minerals requested a voluntary suspension from the ASX while it deferred the release of its annual report, noting that a longer term “funding solution” for initiatives to optimise production was being finalised.

Tungsten exploration activity has picked up since late 2017 following a recovery in the APT price. A number of projects are advancing towards production, with Barruecopardo (operated by Saloro) and La Parrilla (W Resources), both located in Spain, scheduled to start commercial output in H1 2019.

Roskill’s Tungsten: Global Industry, Markets & Outlook report will be published this month. For more information click here. To discuss the tungsten market with Roskill, contact Jessica Roberts: jessica@roskill.com