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What Is Tantalum And Where Do I Use It?

  • Tantalum (element symbol Ta – number 73 on the periodic table) is a silver-grey hard, transition metal with a high density (16.6g/m3) and the fourth highest melting point (3,020°C).


  • Tantalum does not occur as a free metal in nature, but in the form of complex oxides and other minerals such as microlite or tantalite-columbite. Because of its complex mineral form, tantalum is mostly produced as a co-product and often associated in ore bodies with niobium, tin or lithium.


  • Worldwide, tantalum is primarily used to manufacture capacitors for electronic devices. However, in the EU, most of Ta use comes from imported semi-finished products rather than manufacturing.


  • Tantalum is also used to make alloys to increase strength, ductility and corrosion resistance. In the EU, superalloys are an important use of tantalum due to the prominence of the aerospace sector.


  • Another major application for Ta is sputtering targets used in the production of computer chips, storage media, inkjet printer heads, flat panel displays and so on.


  • Tantalum chemicals have a wide range of applications. They are often intermediates in the manufacture of other products destined for the electronics industry.


  • Tantalum mill products are also widely used, for instance in chemical processing equipment, ballistics and dental and surgical instruments and implants.

  • Tantalum carbides are used in cutting tools.

Where is Tantalum Produced?


  • The global producers of tantalum are Congo, D.R. 35%, Rwanda 17%, Brazil 16% and Nigeria 11%. 


  • According to the WMD global mine production of tantalum between 2010 and 2020 ranged from 799 t (2010) and 2,260 t (2017). ​​


  • Until 2008 Australia used to be the most important supplier of tantalum, but its production decreased significantly and now accounts only minor share in global production.


Global Market


  • An estimated of 2,750 t of tantalum ores and concentrates were consumed in the global market in the form of engineered powder, wire, rods, ingots and sheets in 2021 alone (TTI, 2021). The electronics industry is the leading application for tantalum where it is used in the manufacture of capacitors and sputtering targets (H2020 Tarantula, 2020). 


  • Between 2001 and 2020, the major EU supplier of Tantalum was United States, which corresponds to 29% of EU's Tantalum imports in the period. Japan, China, and the UK followed with 17%, 13%, 11% of total EU imports of tantalum, respectively.


  • Tantalum is not traded on any metals exchange, and there are no terminal or futures markets where buyers and sellers can fix an official price. References for prices are obtained through averages of past deals between private parties, generally available through paid subscription, such as Asian Metal, and Metal Pages (Eynard et al., 2020).


Specific Issues for Tantalum


  • Tantalum mining and trade is related to armed conflicts and severe human rights violations and is therefore considered a conflict mineral in legislation (c.f. section “Standards and normative Requirements related to use and processing of the material“). In addition to the conflict minerals issue, 20 % to 25 % of mined tantalum is produced by artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). ​​


  • The use of tantalum is limited to those applications where no substitution of tantalum can be used. 


  • The EUs supply primarily comes from central Africa, Brazil and Australia. The level of confidence concerning tantalum trade in central Africa is a key parameter affecting the material’s criticality.


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