And it explains why IMC International Metalworking, part of Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A, NYSE: BRK.B) empire, recently invested $80 million in a tungsten mining project in South Korea.
The deal gives Buffett a 25% stake in what used to be the most productive tungsten mine on the planet. IMC has also guaranteed to buy 90%-100% of all the shiny metal from Woulfe Mining Corp.'s (TXSV: WOF)Sangdong Mine.
Sangdong is expected to produce half of the world's non-China tungsten and account for 7% to 10% of total global tungsten production when it reopens in 2013.
While the deal may come as a surprise to some, those in the know understand that Buffett just made another shrewd move to lock up supplies of a critical resource.
Tungsten - A Vital Part of Modern Life
Best known as the filament used in conventional light bulbs, tungsten is among the world's hardest materials.
Its ability to withstand extreme heat - the grey metal is corrosion and fire-proof -- makes tungsten irreplaceable in a wide range of applications, including circular electric saws, drill bits for oil and gas exploration, and rocket engine nozzles.
But tungsten is more than just an extremely hard metal. Indeed, modern life virtually revolves around it and, in most cases, there is no substitute.