Tantalum is a highly corrosion-resistant transition metal that occurs in the mineral tantalite. The major use for tantalum is in electronic components such as capacitors and high-end resistors. It is also used to proudce superalloys with high melting points, strength, and good ductility for jet engines, nuclear reactors, and other advanced industries. Its melting point is only lower than tungsten, rhenium and carbon. The Kougarok prospect, on the Seward Peninsula in Alaska, hosts significant tantalum resources in a lithium-fluorine granite. More than 70% of tantalum is
consumed by the electronics industry, and most of that goes into making capacitors.
Domestic Production and Use: No significant U.S. tantalum mine production has been reported since 1959. Domestic tantalum resources are of low grade, some mineralogically complex, and most are not commercially recoverable. Companies in the United States produced tantalum alloys, compounds, and metal from imported concentrates, and metal and alloys were recovered from foreign and domestic scrap. Tantalum was consumed mostly in the form of alloys, compounds, fabricated forms, ingot, and metal powder. Tantalum capacitors were estimated to account for more than 60% of tantalum use. Major end uses for tantalum capacitors include automotive electronics, pagers, personal computers, and portable telephones. The value of tantalum consumed in 2009 was estimated at about $127 million and was expected to be about $170 million in 2010 as measured by the value of imports.
Recycling: Tantalum was recycled mostly from new scrap that was generated during the manufacture of tantalum-containing electronic components and from tantalum-containing cemented carbide and superalloy scrap.
Import Sources (2006–09): Tantalum contained in niobium (columbium) and tantalum ore and concentrate; tantalum metal; and tantalum waste and scrap—Australia, 17%; China, 17%; Kazakhstan, 12%; Germany, 10%; and other, 44%.
Events, Trends, and Issues: U.S. tantalum apparent consumption in 2010 was estimated to increase about 150% from that of 2009. Tantalum waste and scrap was the leading imported tantalum material, accounting for more than 42% of tantalum imports. By weight, from 2006 through 2009, tantalum mineral concentrate imports for consumption were supplied 66% by Australia and 21% by Canada; metal, 27% by China, 27% by Kazakhstan, and 15% by Germany; and waste and scrap, 15% by China, 14% by Portugal, and 12% by Germany. The United States rebounded from financial market problems and the subsequent economic slowdown in 2008 and 2009, as the world economy began a slow recovery. Several tantalum mines were put on care and maintenance: Wodgina Mine (Australia) in December 2008, and Tanco (Canada) and Marropino (Mozambique) in April 2009; however, Marropino restarted in April 2010.
World Resources: Identified resources of tantalum, most of which are in Australia and Brazil, are considered adequate to meet projected needs. The United States has about 1,500 tons of tantalum resources in identified deposits, all of which are considered uneconomic at 2010 prices.
Substitutes: The following materials can be substituted for tantalum, but usually with less effectiveness: niobium in carbides; aluminum and ceramics in electronic capacitors; glass, niobium, platinum, titanium, and zirconium in corrosion-resistant equipment; and hafnium, iridium, molybdenum, niobium, rhenium, and tungsten in high-temperature applications.
(wiki) - Tantalum on Wikipedia
Tantalum News 2011-07-07 - (ms) - Motorola Solutions announces project to source conflict-free tantalum from Democratic Republic of Congo
2011-07-07 - (am) - AVX brings conflict-free tantalum from Congo for capacitors
2011-06-30 - (bw) - Research and Markets: Tantalum ethoxide (CAS 6074-84-6) Market Research Report 2011
2011-06-22 - (rin) - Who's planning to cash in on tantalum's revival?
2011-06-14 - (eve) - LEad times for capacitors return to normal
2010-11-10 - (reu) - Tantalite to rise as conflict-free supplies needed
2010-11-01 - (fc) - How a handful of countries control the Earth's most precious materials
2010-10-22 - (mw) - First Gold intersects 2.15% Li2O, 1,594 g/t rubidium, 150 ppm Ta2O5, 147 ppm beryllium, 75 ppm gallium over 12.60 metres on Rose
2010-10-19 - (pi) - Noventa's Marropino and Morrua tantalum mines estimated to produce 6.21 mln pounds