Soenke Zehle on Mon, 3 Jun 2002 20:33:57 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> The Economics of Tantalum Revisited...

More sobering news about the interdependence of the virtual economy, 
"ethnic strife," environmental crisis and the like.

From: "David Duthie" <>

Last April I posted a short piece on the threat that tantalite mining posed
to lowland gorillas in DRC (see BIOPLAN Archive

Below is a short  update on the situation which nicely illustrates how
global issues, and fluctuations on Wall Street, can create tidal waves at
the local level that, in turn, have negative impacts on globally
significant biodiversity.

Now it seems that PlayStations, as well as the mobile mobile phones I
highlighted last year, are the root causes of the demand - and I just
contributed to the purchase of one for my nephew's birthday!

Below the article from Oryx I am pasting a summary from a market report
"The Economics of Tantalum", 8th edition, ISBN 0 86214 862 6 (published
February 2002),  a view from the other side of the fence?  Notice the price
of the Roskill report - Hard copy price =A3 1,200/ $US 2,400/Euro 2,100
plus postage/ packing!!!

Coincidentally, this month also marks the release of the final reports of
the IIED Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development Project, commissioned
by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and now
available for download (free!) at:  (18 pdf files
averaging around 1150KB).

Let's hope that this report has some of the solutions needed for the
tantalite issue. The Press Release for MMSD is below the Roskill summary.

Best wishes

David Duthie

BIOPLAN is an electronic list server established by the UNDP-UNEP
implemented Biodiversity Planning Support Programmme and maintained by
UNDP-GEF to serve the global community involved in planning for national
implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Oryx 36(1):12-13

Update on coltan mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Tantalum is a rare, blue-grey metal that has a wide range of uses,
including in the manufacture of capacitors to store electrical charges in
portable computers and mobile phones. There are tantalum deposits in many
parts of the world, including Australia, the Americas and Asia, but when a
world shortage occurred in 2000 (primarily because of a demand for
PlayStations) the biggest impact was in Africa.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), thousands of miners entered
World Heritage Site national parks to mine 'coltan', the African name for
an ore of tantalum and its sister mineral, columbium or niobium. The name
coltan is derived from columbite-tantalite. To support these mining camps,
professional hunters killed vast quantities of wildlife for meat. One of
the worst affected species was the Eastern lowland, or Grauer's, gorilla
Gorilla beringei ssp. graueri that occurs only in DRC and whose population
may have been decimated.

During 2000 the price of tantalum skyrocketed from $40 per pound to $500
per pound, but it has now returned to its original level. There has been
speculation that failing demand is related to the downturn of the high-tech
industries, global recession, development of alternatives to tantalum,
expansion of mining in Australia and international pressure for a boycott
of Central African tantalum. Whilst all of these elements may have
contributed, one of the key factors is that during the shortage in 2000
panic-buying by major companies led to the creation of massive stockpiles.
Those companies are now using up their expensive stock and the market is
therefore depressed. Although demand appears to have slumped, this is
probably temporary.

As the fleeting price premium and international demand have disappeared,
many miners are de-camping from the national parks. Some, however, continue
to mine as they have little to return to, and, even though they are barely
scraping a living, they cannot afford to stop. Despite protestations from
many companies that they do not purchase Congolese tantalum, it is still
being sold on the 'spot' market, where sources can be impossible to trace.

Much of the 'coltan belt' of eastern DRC is under the control of rebel
forces, and the humanitarian agency Refugee International has reported that
the rebel authorities are trying to impose taxes on international aid,
including shipments of medicines, in order to replace the income that they
received from coltan. The political situation in DRC is always volatile,
although at the time of writing progress is being made to ensure that the
'Inter-Congolese Dialogue' multi-party peace talks will take place. Joseph
Kabila's efforts to find a route to peace are being praised
internationally, but the greatest challenge is to secure the same regard
and co-operation within his own country.

Little is known of the impact of the fall in the price of coltan on the
bushmeat situation. It is possible that the withdrawal of some miners has
benefited wildlife by reducing hunting pressure. However, it is also
possible that dependence on bushmeat will continue to escalate as the human
population grows ever poorer. Deeply aware of the urgency of the situation,
Fauna & Flora International is actively working to identify possible
solutions and partnerships to assist in alleviating this conservation and
humanitarian crisis.

Karen Hayes Consultant, Corporate Affairs, Fauna & Flora International
Hicks & Hayes, 49 Stokes Croft, Frome, Somerset BA11 1QD, UK E-mail:


The Economics of Tantalum, 2002

188 pages with 104 tables and 24 figures

New markets will maintain growth in demand

Global demand for tantalum has increased strongly since the mid-1990s,
exhibiting annual growth of 24%py, to reach a total of over 2,600t Ta2O5 in
2001.  This growth in demand has been due largely to the use of tantalum
capacitors in small portable electronic components such as laptop computers=
video cameras, games consoles and, most importantly, mobile phones.  There
are a number of new markets for tantalum capacitors that will maintain the
growth in demand for tantalum, the most important being under-hood
applications in automobiles.  Growth in tantalum demand in capacitors is
expected to average 9-10% py through to 2005.  Other new markets for
tantalum have been developed: tantalum oxides are finding use in electronic=
applications, including computer memory chips and processors.  These have
the potential to be major consumers of tantalum in the future, although the
amount of tantalum used per unit is very small.   The key trends, issues an=
developments in the market are now analysed in this major new report from
Roskill.  It provides a clear insight into all areas of the industry and an
authoritative analysis of the prospects for the future.

What the report contains

Independent, in-depth research and analysis
Essential market intelligence for successful business planning
Detailed survey of production in 52 countriesUp-to-date profiles of over 45
producing companies, and their activities, including Sons of Gwalia Ltd;
Paranapanema; Tanco' Yichin Tantalum and Niobium Mine and SC Sevredmet.
Forecasts for end-use consumption and world supply and demand


Sons of Gwalia are to increase output to approximately 2.5Mlb per year
(1,130tpy) by 2003.  The company plans to raise production capacity further=
to 5Mlb/y (2,250t) by 2006. The increase in tantalum consumption over the
past few decades has transformed it from a minor by-product of tin mining t=
a valuable resource.  The rise in the value of tantalite in 2000 spurred
the exploration & development of tantalite deposits in a number of
countries, & also led to an increase in opportunist mining in central
Africa. Tantalum capacitors are chosen for under-hood applications in
automobiles due to their high temperature capability (up to 150=B0C).
However, demand will be tempered by substitution of tantalum capacitors wit=
cheaper ceramic types wherever possible, which will tend to moderate demand
for tantalum in this application. In recent years there has been an increas=
in demand for tantalum carbides due to their  suitability for machining
printed circuit boards.   Demand is expected to show growth of approximatel=
5%py in the near future.

Tantalite production in Central Africa  increased dramatically during the
period of elevated prices during the latter half of 2000. The US
Geographical Survey statistics of 2000 show output of 200 Ta2O5  from
Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, although the true
figure may be double this. Most of this material was mined illegally inside
National Park areas of the DRC that are under the control of rebel militias=
and  sold    through neighboring countries.


1. Summary

2. Introduction
Occurrences: Tin slags; Mining and processing of tantalum ores

3. Tantalum supply and demand
Primary tantalum supply; Production of tantalum concentrates; Synthetic
concentrates; Inventories;Secondary tantalum; Tantalum supply and demand

4. Production and processing by country
Angola; Armenia; Argentina; Australia: Anaconda Nickel Ltd.; Australasian
Gold Mines NL; Australian Zirconia Ltd.; Haddington International Resources
Ltd.; Kanowna Lights Ltd.; Sons of Gwalia Ltd.; Glengarry Resources NL;
Austria: Plansee GmbH; Treibacher Industrie AG; Belgium; Bolivia; Brazil:
Metallurg do Brasil Ltda.; Paranapanema Group; Burundi; Canada: Avalon
Ventures Ltd.; Highwood Resources Ltd.; Tantalum Mining Corp.; Chad; China:
Conghua Tantalum & Niobium Smelter; Dongfang Tantalum Industrial Co.;
Jiujiang Tanbre Smeltery; Limu Non-Ferrous Metal Co.; Ninxia Oriental
Tantalum Industry Co. Ltd.; Nanping Niobium-Tantalum Mine; Yichin Tantalum
and Niobium mine; Xinjiang Non-Ferrous Metals Industry Corp.; Zhuzhou
Cemented Carbide Works; Congo Brazzaville; Democratic Republic of Congo:
Soci=E9t=E9 Mini=E8re et Industrielle du Kivu; Zairetain; Egypt; Ethiopia;
Equatorial Guinea; Estonia; Finland; France; French Guiana; Germany: GfE;
Freiberger NE-Metall, GmbH.; W.C. Heraeus GmbH.; H.C. Starck GmbH, & Co. KG=
Trade; Ghana; Greenland; Guyana; India; Ireland; Ivory Coast; Japan: Trade;
Kazakhstan; Belagorsky Mining-Concentrating Combine; Irtysh
Polymetallurgical Works; Ulbinsky Metallurgical plant; Malaysia; Mongolia;
Mozambique; Namibia; Nigeria; Norway; Poland; Portugal; Russia: Malyshevsky
RudoUpravlenie; Novoorlovsky GOK; SC Sevredmet; Solikamsk Magnesium Works;
JSC Uralredmet.; Zabaikalsky GOK; Trade; Rwanda; Saudi Arabia; Sierra Leone=
Singapore; South Africa; Spain; Thailand: H.C. Starck (Thailand) Co., Ltd.;
Thailand Smelting and Refining Co; Uganda; UK; Ukraine; USA: Chapleau
Resources Ltd.; Coosa Association; American Nickel Alloy Manufacturing
Corp.; Cabot Corp.; Fansteel Inc.; Kennametal Inc.; Metallurg Inc.;
Metallurgical Industries Inc.; Nuclear Metals Inc.; Phoenix Metallurgical
Co. of Texas; Resources Alloys and Metals Inc.; H.C. Starck Inc.; DLA sales=
Trade; Venezuela; Zimbabwe

5. Consumption of tantalum
China; CIS; Japan; USA

6. End-uses of tantalum
Tantalum capacitors: Capacitor materials; Tantalum foil capacitors; Porous
anode/wet electrolyte capacitors; Porous anode/dry electrolyte capacitors;
Tantalum chip capacitors; Tantalum powder and capacitor development;
Tantalum capacitor manufacturers (AVX Corp.; Bourns Inc.; Elna; Epcos;
Fujitsu Media Devices Ltd; Hitachi AIC; Kemet Corp.; NEC Corp.; Nichicon
Corp; Ningxia; Nippon Chemi-Con; North American Capacitor Co.; Panasonic
Industrial; Partsnic Co. Ltd.; Shenzhen Capacitors Industrial Co. Ltd.;
Vishay Intertechnology Inc.) Demand for tantalum capacitors; Consumption of
tantalum in capacitors; Principal market drivers for capacitors (Cellular
phones; Personal computers; Mass storage; Automotive uses; Digital cameras)
Other electronic components: SAW filters; Dynamic random access memory
chips; Ferro-electric memory chips; Semiconductor chips; Liquid crystal
displays; Alloy additives: Consumption and markets for high performance
alloys; Consumption of tantalum alloy additives; Industrial applications;
Aerospace applications of superalloys (Future demand for superalloys)
Tantalum mill products: Corrosion resistant applications; Other uses for
tantalum metal (Surgical uses; Ballistics; Spinnerets) Ultra-high vacuum
getter pumps (Mirror-finished tantalum; Radio nuclide encapsulation)
Tantalum carbides: Demand for cemented carbides; Producers and consumers of
tantalum carbides; Tantalum chemicals

7. Prices
Ores and concentrates; Tantalum products

You can order a hard copy of this report to be sent to you by post or
courier or you can order it and download it over the Internet


Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development Project

News Release

London, 1 May 2002

Breaking New Ground: What can minerals do for development?

Today marks the release of Breaking New Ground1? the result of the most
ambitious global study yet undertaken of minerals and their role in
development. Based at the International Institute for Environment and
Development in London, with regional teams in South and North America,
Southern Africa and Australia, and activities in a further 16 countries, th=
two-year project included broad opportunities for participation in
identifying problems and solutions. The report is being released in advance
of the World Summit for Sustainable Development.2

The goal was to unearth the most controversial problems of minerals
development and its impacts on poverty, human well-being, the environment
and other factors key to sustainable development. In this sector, these
include the impact on indigenous communities, efficiency and resource
consumption, armed conflict, protected areas and biodiversity, corruption,
human rights, management of mining waste and many others. "MMSD is a projec=
covering a new, different and challenging topic that brings us into a
discussion which might have been avoided in the past. The process that will
follow the report will be something to look forward to," says Yolanda
Kakabadse, President of IUCN ? The World Conservation Union.

"From the industry perspective, taking part in this project was a risky
business. It was nevertheless an essential step, not least for business
reasons. The industry realised it is difficult to do well as a business whe=
you belong to an industry that has a bad reputation. If we allowed the
widespread negative attitudes to our activities to go on, we would
eventually have difficulty accessing resources in the ground and markets fo=
our products," says Sir Robert Wilson, Chairman of Rio Tinto plc.

1 Breaking New Ground, the Report of the Mining, Minerals and Sustainable
Development Project is available online at It will be
available in final published form from Earthscan Publications in early July=

2 The WSSD, scheduled for August in Johannesburg, will review world progres=
in sustainable development in the ten years since the first Earth Summit in
Rio and attempt to set a future agenda.

Breaking New Ground calls for specific actions:3

? An Industry Protocol for Sustainable Development
? A Commitment to Address the Negative Legacy of the Past
? Supporting Legalisation of Artisanal and Small-scale Mining
? Integrated Management of the Full Mineral Chain4
? More Effective Government Management of Mineral Investment
? A More Equitable International Trade Regime for Minerals

"This attempt to surface the issues that affect the sector has resulted in
an enormous agenda for work to be done now. The best performers are already
doing many of these, but the worst have far to go to catch up. If we cannot
get this sector collectively to contribute more positively to sustainable
development they will not deserve the license to operate," says MMSD Projec=
Coordinator Richard Sandbrook. "The Mining, Minerals and Sustainable
Development Project has made a serious effort to find out what concerns
people about this essential but highly criticized industrial sector. It has
been a rough journey. Many are in denial about its legacy. "We have tried t=
run the most inclusive and open process possible, and to give everyone a
chance to help define a better future. Some have chosen to avoid the issues=
or have felt uncomfortable sitting down with others they are in serious
conflict with," says MMSD Project Director Luke Danielson.

For more information contact: Gabriela Flores, tel: +44-20-7269-1631, or

3 Details on these proposals are contained in the Agenda for Change,
Breaking New Ground Chapter 16.

4 The chain consists of exploration, extraction, smelting, refining,
fabricating, manufacturing, use, re-use, recycling
and disposal, where applicable.

Notes to Editors

? Breaking New Ground offers a series of conclusions. Society's continuing
need for various mineral commodities is clear. Equally clear is that simply
meeting market demand for minerals will not achieve what society expects an=
insists on. A few of the many expectations are:

? countries, especially emerging economies, expect that minerals developmen=
will bean engine of sustained national economic growth;

? local communities expect that the industry will provide employment,
infrastructure andother benefits that match the risks and impacts they
experience, all within a framework that will leave people better off when
the project is over than when it started;

? the industry's own employees expect safer and healthier working
conditions, a bettercommunity life, and some kind of security and
consideration if and when theiremployment ends;

? local citizens and human rights campaigners expect companies to respect
andsupport basic rights, even when they are operating where government does

? environmental organisations expect a much higher standard of performance,
and thatthe industry will stay out of ecologically and culturally sensitive

? investors expect higher returns, and have shown dissatisfaction with the
industry'sfinancial results;

? consumers expect safe products that will not degrade the environment, and
that were not produced in substandard conditions.

? The Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development Project is an independen=
two-year process of research and consultation seeking to understand how the
mining and minerals sector can best contribute to the global transition to
sustainable development.

? MMSD is a project of the International Institute for Environment and
Development (IIED) and was commissioned by the World Business Council for
Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

? Project conclusions are based on four regional processes, over 175
commissioned studies, 23 global workshops and experts meetings, and a 7-wee=
public review of preliminary conclusions.

? More information on MMSD is available at
To order the report published by Earthscan, contact:


Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development is a project of the
International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in London,

The Project is made possible by the support of the World Business Council
for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).
IIED is a company limited by guarantee and incorporated in England. Reg.
No. 2188452. VAT Reg. No. GB 440 4948 50. Registered Charity No. 800066 

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