Facility is being revived to extract the metal that is used in technologies ranging from chips to electric vehicles
Sangdong — Blue tungsten winking from the walls of abandoned mine shafts, in a town that’s seen better days, could be a catalyst for South Korea’s bid to break China’s dominance of critical minerals and stake its claim to the raw materials of the future.
The mine in Sangdong, 180km southeast of Seoul, is being brought back from the dead to extract the rare metal that’s found fresh value in the digital age in technologies ranging from phones and chips to electric vehicles and missiles.
“Why reopen it now after 30 years? Because it means sovereignty over natural resources,” said Lee Dong-seob, vice-president of mine owner Almonty Korea Tungsten. “Resources have become weapons and strategic assets.”
Sangdong is one of at least 30 critical mineral mines or processing plants globally that have been launched or reopened outside China over the last four years, according to a Reuters review of projects announced by governments and companies. These include projects developing lithium in Australia, rare earths in the US and tungsten in Britain.