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A twisted tungsten tale

Government, company have differing views on mine profitability

Dave Sullivan
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Aug10/01) - A company planning to re-open the Cantung mine rejects a government assessment that the tungsten mine is "economically marginal."

Department of Resources and Economic Development geologist, Warwick Bullen, told a group of citizens here recently that North American Tungsten Corp.'s plans to restart the mine doesn't make economic sense.

Bullen's boss at RWED, Doug Matthews, said the conclusion is based on low tungsten prices.

In his presentation, Bullen said "an assessment of the mine's past performance juxtaposed against current (tungsten) prices suggests the operation is economically marginal."

The mine closed several years ago when prices sunk to record-low levels.

North American Tungsten Corp. CEO, Udo Von Doehren, says minimum floor prices the company negotiated with two of the world's largest tungsten buyers make the mine profitable.

Von Doehren won't reveal the prices, even though the company is traded on the Canadian Venture Exchange.

The company is going to apply to the exchange for an exemption that would allow price information to remain confidential.

The strategy is "a double-edged sword," Von Doehren said.

Withholding information will keep competitors wondering but could keep potential investors away.

Bullen and Matthews are more optimistic about MacTung, a nearby deposit also owned by North American Tungsten that is believed can be mined for 30 years.

CanTung will last just three or four years. If all goes according to plan it will be re-activated by this December.