Metals rarely occur in the earth's crust in its pure form. Mostly, metals are components of so-called ores, located in metal-bearing mineral deposits. Deposits that are economically viable to produce, are rarely found on earth compared to aggregates and industrial minerals. In Austria, iron and tungsten can be produced on an economical level.
The current production data for Austria is published in the Austrian Mining Yearbook (PDF, 4 MB) (in German). International statistics on raw materials are released in English in the WORLD MINING DATA.
The fourth-most occurring element of the Earth’s crust is the metal iron (Fe). In Austria, iron is considered a “mineral free for mining” according to the Austrian Mineral Resources Act. It is mainly used as a basic material for the production of steel.
The world’s largest siderite deposit is located in Austria. Siderite is an iron-carbonate mineral which has been explored at the Styrian iron ore mine “Erzberg” in the town of Eisenerz for more than 1,300 years.
Of all chemical elements, tungsten (W) has the highest melting and boiling points and has often been used for filaments of bulbs in the past. Now tungsten represents a high-tech component in the tool, automobile, aviation, energy, electronics and mining industry. As its density is similar to that of gold, tungsten was used to forge gold bars in the past. However, due to its relative scarcity tungsten is almost as expensive as gold and therefore only insufficiently suited as a substitute. A special feature of scheelite is that the mineral appears white-coloured in daylight, but fluoresces under UV-light.
One of the largest tungsten deposits of the western world is located in the “Felbertal” area in the Province of Salzburg. The scheelite (carbonaceous tungsten ore, CaWO4) deposit was discovered in 1967 and has been exploited in an underground mine since 1975. With an annual production of about 550,000 tonnes, Austria is one of the largest tungsten producer in the world.
According to the European Commission, tungsten is a “critical raw material” (CRM). CRMs combine raw materials of high importance to the EU economy and of high risk associated with their supply. Tungsten is also classified as “conflict mineral”.