Noted for its high melting point, tantalum is widely used as a capacitor in computers and other electronic devices.
Tantalum is a relatively rare metal that typically occurs together with niobium in its ores, most commonly in the form of coltan, which is predominantly sourced from DR Congo and neighbouring countries. Tantalum is one of the four 3TG ‘conflict minerals’, as defined by the US Dodd Frank Act and the EU Conflict Mineral Regulation. It is also designated as a critical raw material by both the European Union and United States.
Tantalum is used to produce capacitors for a wide range of electronic devices, most prominently in computers. It has many other applications, including in high temperature alloys and in chemical processing equipment, make it a material for which demand is possibly set to increase. There are many interrelated supply chain security and ESG risks associated with tantalum sourcing. Most importantly, the production and trade of tantalum is often reported to be controlled or influenced by armed groups in East and Central Africa, and, to a lesser extent, in South America. A convoluted supply chain often it makes it difficult for downstream companies to distinguish between Congolese and non-Congolese sources of tantalum for the purposes of complying with conflict mineral regulations.
Main Uses and Attributes
Tantalum is characterised by its high density, extremely high melting point, and excellent resistance to almost all acids. Tantalum carbides have applications in ultra-high temperature ceramics, with melting points in the range 2,000-4,000°C, and tantalum fabricated sheets and plates having a very high corrosion resistance.1https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2020/cp/c9cp06819h
The advent of consumer electronics means that tantalum consumption has been dominated by capacitors for electronic equipment since the mid-2000s. These are an essential part of almost all electronic products, ranging from smartphones to medical electronics, and from electronic systems in cars to wind turbines producing electricity. Tantalum content allows capacitors and semiconductors to be small and dense, which has great utility in size-constrained electronic devices. Tantalum metal is also used for sintering tray assemblies and shielding components for anode sintering furnaces.2https://www.tanb.org/about-tantalum/applications-for-tantalum,3https://www.britannica.com/science/tantalum Additionally, it is used to produce high temperature alloys for gas turbine engines.
Supply Chain Risk
TDi assesses Tantalum for key risks affecting the security of supply, and for its association with artisanal and small-scale mining.
Country Governance Risks
Tantalum's association with countries experiencing:
Association with ESG issues
TDi Sustainability's data rates Tantalum's association with the following issues as high or very high: