A Vancouver mining company says it hopes to cash in on record high prices for tungsten — the metal found in light bulbs and golf clubs, among other things — to develop a new mine in Canada's North.
North American Tungsten Corp. announced Friday it will conduct a full feasibility study of its Mactung property, located on the border between the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. The property is accessible from Ross River, Yukon.
"We're starting, basically, the biggest project that the company has ever looked at, no question," company president Stephen Leahy told CBC News. "The timing's right."
With an estimated 13 million tonnes of ore, the Mactung property is considered to have one of the world's largest undeveloped tungsten deposits.
The property was first discovered more than 40 years ago, with drilling beginning in 1968 and a "significant deposit" found in 1973. A road was also built through the high mountain passes into the property around that time. But by 1984, efforts to build a mine at Mactung stopped when tungsten prices fell.
North American Tungsten's multimillion-dollar feasibility study, which is expected to take up to a year, will analyze a variety of factors, from tungsten prices to transportation costs.
"Within sort of the nine-to-12-month range, hopefully we'll have the mine plan done and look to start the march toward production," Leahy said.
For now, Leahy said he can't estimate when a mine at Mactung could be built, or how large it could be.
Tungsten, a hard and dense grey-to-white metallic element, is usedinitems from light bulb filaments, saw blades and golf clubs to industrial heavy machinery.
Leahy said tungsten prices have quadrupled in the last few years, before settling near $250 per metric tonne unit.
"We've seen some stabilization in this high pricing of tungsten, and people obviously were concerned that it was some kind of a spike in the marketplace," he said.
"We obviously don't think so, and we certainly see a great future for the metal."
North American Tungsten is currently mining at its Cantung deposit, located south of Mactung. Leahy said a couple of years worth of known reserves remain at that property. Combined, the Cantung and Mactung deposits holdroughly 15 per cent of the world's known tungsten supply.