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High tungsten prices spark interest in site

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, November 22, 2007

DEH CHO - High tungsten prices and a growing demand for the metal are leading a company to consider opening a second mine in the North.

North American Tungsten Corp. has announced that they are conducting a full feasibility study of their Mactung property. The site is located near the border between the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

North American Tungsten is conducting a full feasibility study on its Mactung site located near the Yukon and NWT border. - photo courtesy of North American Tungsten

The company has been looking at the development of the Mactung property for some time, said Stephen Leahy, the company's chief executive officer.

Among the factors influencing the company's decision to conduct a study is tungsten prices.

"Tungsten prices have risen dramatically," said Leahy.

Over the past few years tungsten has gone from $50 per metric tonne or 2,200 pounds to $250. The company believes the prices will be sustained, Leahy said.

"The need for tungsten is growing in the world," said Leahy.

New nanotechnology has developed that can make the brittle metal more malleable so it can be used in some cases to replace lead, Leahy said. Tungsten is also non-toxic.

Leahy also expects tungsten prices to stay high because China, which has mined 85 per cent of the world's tungsten to date, is using more of the metal and is depleting their own resource.

Leahy describes Mactung as one of the largest known undeveloped high-grade tungsten deposits in the world. A report has shown there are 33 million tonnes of high-grade ore at the site.

"Mactung has always been considered world class," he said.

Mined at 1,500 to 2,000 tonnes a day the site would stay open for a few decades, he said. Cantung, the company's other property - located on the NWT side of the Yukon/NWT border near the Nahanni National Park Reserve - is still operating but has an official mine life of approximately two years left.

The feasibility study, which is expected to take nine months to a year, will examine all aspects of the Mactung site from mine plans to whether a mine would be cost-effective.

The next step would be to enter into the permitting process and then construct the mine. Even if all goes well, it could be several years before a mine is established.

"This is not a quick process by any means," he said.

The Mactung site is accessible by road from Ross River, Yukon. Although the company has claims on both sides of the border, the deposit is on the Yukon side, only hundreds of metres from the border.