Roskill: The Myths About Tantalum Supply Exploded
LONDON, August 13, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --
- New Report Provides In-Depth Analysis of Tantalum Supply
In its new report on tantalum, Roskill highlights the major changes in the industry in recent years and what can be expected to change in future. Tantalum prices have displayed the ability to move rapidly, demand can recover as quickly as it can collapse, some established miners appear to be behaving like swing producers, and most of the downstream industry is trying to distance itself from the spectre of conflict tantalum. At present the future of the tantalum industry poses more questions than answers. Roskill has examined the possibilities and presents an independent view of what will happen from now until 2016.
Resources - where the tantalum really is
For some years during the 2000s a widely reported "fact" was that Central Africa, and specifically the Demographic Republic of Congo (DRC), hosted about 80% of the world's tantalum resources. The origins of that belief are a mystery but the myth has fairly recently been laid to rest by the industry's principal forum, which calculates that Central Africa is home to less than 10% of the probable global resources of 700Mlb Ta2O5 (318,000t). In reality, over 40% of likely tantalum resources are located in South America, mainly in Brazil, and another 21% in Australia. These are countries where mining is undertaken by conventional operations. Much of the remainder is found in parts of Asia, Africa and China and is also exploited by conventional means. Artisanal production from the DRC and neighbouring countries in the region certainly forms a significant part of global primary supply, an estimated 23% in 2011, but Roskill considers that it is not critical to the market. Conventional miners can and will satisfy demand, if prices are at levels that make mining economic, which is not always the case.
Tin slags continue to play a key role in tantalum supply
Tin slags were once the main source of tantalum, accounting for as much as two thirds of total primary supply, but have lessened in importance in line with a decline in tin mining in countries with tantalum-rich tin ores. They still, however, made up close to 10% of primary supply in 2011. Slags can be split into three types. The first type is slags generated during ongoing tin-smelting operations and from which tantalum is recovered by processors such as Starck. The second is low-grade material produced years ago that was merely dumped or used as construction aggregate. Several companies have been active in finding these slags and stockpiling them in anticipation of high tantalum prices. The third group consists of very large historical dumps such as those known to exist in Brazil. They are big enough to be almost considered as deposits and, although some processing issues are believed to remain unresolved, they could become major sources of tantalum in future.
Mine production remains unpredictable
Roskill estimates that conventional and artisanal mining made up 74% of total tantalum supply in 2011, followed by recycling (18%) and tin slags (8%). The conventional side has become rather unpredictable in recent years. The Australian producer now known as GAM has historically been the largest producer, although it has gradually been overtaken by the combined output from Brazil's MIBRA and Pitinga mines. In late 2008, GAM's predecessor Talison attempted to negotiate a large increase in long-term contract prices with its customers. However, the global economic downturn saw demand for tantalum fall sharply, low-cost material from Central Africa was freely available on the open market and many processors held large inventories. Talison failed to obtain a contract price that made mining attractive and suspended production. It was soon followed by the Tanco mine in Canada and Noventa in Mozambique. For a while, non-captive supply from conventional mines was largely limited to production from Brazil and the Ethiopian producer Kenticha. Economic recovery saw demand for tantalum bounce back in 2010 and 2011 and prices rose dramatically. That brought GAM back into the market but not for long. When spot prices eased in early 2012, it suspended mining again and made it plain that it would not start again until prices improved. Tanco is still shuttered but could reopen. Noventa resumed production in 2010 but has struggled towards its aim of becoming the world's leading producer. Elsewhere in Africa, things are equally difficult. Kenticha, which provided about 15% of total conventional supply in 2011, announced last May that rising levels of radioactivity had forced a halt to mining and export of tantalum ore. Production will not re-start until financing is found to enable the construction of the necessary processing plant.
Artisanal mining in Central Africa - wait and see
The supply of columbite-tantalite ("coltan") from Central Africa, and specifically from the DRC, has been an issue of major concern for over a decade because of its association with the fighting between government troops and militias and attendant humanitarian crises in the DRC's Kivu provinces. For some years, few processors outside China would purchase tantalum minerals from the DRC, or indeed anywhere in the region because the true origins of the material were not known.
This is now starting to change. The tantalum industry, including miners, smelters, processors and manufacturers, has developed mechanisms for tracking ore throughout the chain, from artisanal producers to final market. This has enabled the recent re-start of legitimate artisanal mining and export of tantalum from Rwanda and the Katanga province of the DRC, which are not conflict areas, and the industry hopes that the scheme will spread. An additional benefit of these initiatives is that they enable companies to purchase tantalum minerals from Central Africa in compliance with the requirements of the US Dodd-Frank legislation, which forces companies reporting to the SEC to disclose the origins of the materials they buy. Things are at an early stage, however, and Roskill considers that it will take some time before the success or failure of tracking and tracing schemes can be assessed fully. There are risk factors. One is that the supply of conflict minerals is probably not going to stop while the conflict in the Kivus continues. There will always be buyers, at the right price. It will not be the major smelters, who are working towards conflict-free accreditation, or already have it, but there are smaller smelters serving domestic markets that may be less choosy. There is also a risk that conflict tantalum could somehow leak into the legitimate artisanal supply chain, despite the best efforts of industry to keep it out. That would have the potential to seriously damage the credibility of the tracking mechanisms.
The role of tantalum scrap
Scrap forms a significant part of total tantalum supply, making up 15-30% of supply to market. Most currently comes from scrap generated during the manufacture of capacitors, the largest market for tantalum, and used sputtering targets. Much therefore depends upon the level of activity in the electronics industry, itself a function of global economic conditions. Other sources include scrap from metal fabrication, used carbides and processing residues. Tantalum is also contained in nickel-based superalloy scrap. This material is not always identified as tantalum in the trade statistics, most often being referred-to as nickel scrap. Post-consumer scrap will become more important in future.
Tantalum demand to increase but not dramatically
The electronics industry (mainly capacitors and sputtering targets) accounts for 50-60% of the demand for tantalum, followed by superalloys (21% in 2011), carbides, mill products and chemicals. World consumption of tantalum, which had been relatively stable over the period 2005 to 2007, peaked in 2008 before the global economic crisis resulted in an almost 40% drop in demand in 2009. No segment of the tantalum market was left untouched, although the individual sectoral decreases varied considerably (23% to 49%). Demand recovered strongly in 2010 in all markets but most particularly in the electronics industry. It weakened again in 2011, however, principally because of a drop in demand from the capacitor industry. Roskill does not anticipate any great changes in demand in 2012 but predicts the period 2013-2016 will see overall growth of 5%py, with specific markets showing rates between 2%py and 8%py.
Supply and demand balance to see swings over the next five years
Numerous factors will affect the tantalum supply-demand balance over the next five years. These include economic drivers, which will influence demand, and thus secondary supply; what happens in the DRC, which will impact upon artisanal supply; and pricing levels, which will play a major role in determining how both existing and potential mine producers behave. Roskill forecasts that the most likely outcome will be tight supply in 2012 and 2013, before the market moves into surplus in 2014 and 2015 and back into deficit in 2016.
Corporate integration continues
There is a significant and increasing degree of concentration of ownership in the tantalum industry. For example, Nanping, one of China's principal tantalum mines, is partly owned by the processor Ningxia Orient, and the Lovozero mine in Russia supplies the processor Solikamsk, which is part of the same corporate group. The Tanco mine in Canada was captive to the Cabot Supermetals processing plant in Boyertown Pennsylvania. Cabot Supermetals itself was acquired by the Australian miner GAM in 2012. Tanco is probably no longer captive to Boyertown, nor would it be if it came back into production, which does not appear to have occurred. In 2012, Kemet, one of the world's leading producers of tantalum capacitors purchased a substantial holding in NEC Tokin, another major manufacturer, and may eventually take full ownership. Kemet also now owns the US company Niotan, which is one of the largest producers of tantalum powder. The tantalum mining and processing sector could see further concentration of ownership in future.
Note to editors,
The report contains 164 pages, 80 tables and 38 figures. It provides a detailed view of the tantalum industry, with subsections on resources, world production, leading mining and processing companies, world consumption, demand by end-use sector, international trade and prices. It provides forecasts of supply/demand balance and prices.
Table of Contents Page 1 Summary 1 2 Introduction 10 2.1 Occurrence and reserves of tantalum 10 2.1.1 Occurrence of tantalum 10 2.1.2 Reserves and resources of tantalum 13 2.1.3 Mining and processing of tantalum 13 3 World supply of tantalum to 2011 17 3.1 Overview 17 3.2 Primary production 19 3.2.1 Conventional mines 19 3.2.2 Artisanal mines and tin slags 22 18.104.22.168 Artisanal mines 23 22.214.171.124 Slags 25 3.3 Secondary supply 26 3.3.1 Stockpiles/inventories 26 3.3.2 Recycling of tantalum wastes and scrap 27 4 Outlook for world supply of tantalum to 2016 28 4.1 Primary production 28 4.2 Secondary supply 30 5 Summary of tantalum producers, projects and processors 31 5.1 Primary tantalum producers 31 5.2 Tantalum projects 32 5.3 Tantalum processors 34 6 Review of tantalum production, projects and processing by country 36 6.1 Angola 36 6.2 Argentina 36 6.3 Australia 36 6.3.1 Reserves of tantalum 37 6.3.2 Production of tantalum minerals 37 6.3.3 International trade 38 6.3.4 Producers of tantalum 39 126.96.36.199 Global Advanced Metals (GAM) 39 188.8.131.52 Past producers 41 6.3.5 Tantalum projects 42 184.108.40.206 Dubbo Zirconia Project 42 220.127.116.11 Lynas 43 18.104.22.168 Others 43 6.4 Austria 44 6.4.1 International trade 44 6.4.2 Processors of tantalum 45 22.214.171.124 Plansee 45 126.96.36.199 Treibacher Industrie 46 6.5 Bolivia 46 6.6 Brazil 46 6.6.1 Reserves of tantalum 47 6.6.2 Production of tantalum minerals 47 6.6.3 International trade 48 6.6.4 Producers of tantalum 49 188.8.131.52 LSM Brasil 49 184.108.40.206 Pitinga 50 6.7 Burundi 51 6.8 Cameroon 52 6.9 Canada 53 6.9.1 Reserves of tantalum 53 6.9.2 Production of tantalum minerals 53 6.9.3 International trade 54 6.9.4 Producers of tantalum 55 220.127.116.11 Tanco 55 6.9.5 Tantalum projects 55 18.104.22.168 Avalon Rare Metals 55 22.214.171.124 Commerce Resources 57 126.96.36.199 Crevier Minerals 57 188.8.131.52 Critical Elements 59 184.108.40.206 Houston Lake Mining 59 220.127.116.11 International Bethehem Mining 59 18.104.22.168 Others 60 6.1 Chad 60 6.11 China 60 6.11.1 Reserves of tantalum 60 6.11.2 Production of tantalum minerals 61 6.11.3 International trade 62 6.11.4 Producers of tantalum 63 22.214.171.124 Minning Tantalum-Niobium Mining Development 63 126.96.36.199 Yichun Tantalum 64 188.8.131.52 Other 64 6.11.5 Processors of tantalum 66 184.108.40.206 Conghua Tantalum & Niobium Smeltery 66 220.127.116.11 Duoluoshan Sapphire Rare Metals 66 18.104.22.168 Fogang Jiata Metals 67 22.214.171.124 F&X Electro-Materials 67 126.96.36.199 Jiujiang Jinxin Nonferrous Metals 67 188.8.131.52 Jiujiang TaNbRe Smelter 68 184.108.40.206 King-Tan Tantalum Industry 68 220.127.116.11 Ningxia Orient 68 18.104.22.168 Zhuzhou Cemented Carbide Works 69 6.12 Colombia 69 6.13 Congo Brazzaville 69 6.14 Cote d'Ivoire 69 6.15 Czech Republic 69 6.16 Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) 70 6.17 Egypt 72 6.17.1 Tantalum Egypt 72 6.18 Estonia 73 6.18.1 Molycorp Silmet 73 6.19 Ethiopia 74 6.19.1 Kenticha 74 6.2 Finland 75 6.21 France 76 6.22 Gabon 76 6.23 Germany 76 6.23.1 International trade 76 6.23.2 Processors of tantalum 77 22.214.171.124 GfE 77 126.96.36.199 Freiberger NE-Metall 77 188.8.131.52 HC Starck 77 184.108.40.206 WC Heraeus 78 6.24 Ghana 78 6.25 Greenland 78 6.25.1 Tantalum projects 79 220.127.116.11 Ram Resources 79 18.104.22.168 Hudson Resources 79 6.26 Guyana 80 6.27 Guyane 80 6.28 India 81 6.29 Ireland 81 6.3 Japan 81 6.30.1 International trade 81 6.30.2 Processors of tantalum 82 22.214.171.124 GAM Technology 82 126.96.36.199 HC Starck 82 188.8.131.52 Japan New Metals 83 184.108.40.206 Mitsui Mining and Smelting 83 6.31 Kazakhstan 83 6.31.1 Reserves of tantalum 83 6.31.2 Production of tantalum 84 6.31.3 International trade 84 6.31.4 Producers and processors of tantalum 85 220.127.116.11 Belogorsky Mining-Concentrating Combine 85 18.104.22.168 Irtysh Chemical-Metallurgical Plant 86 22.214.171.124 Ulba Metallurgical Plant 87 6.32 Kenya 87 6.33 Kyrgyzstan 87 6.34 Malawi 88 6.34.1 Globe Metals and Mining 88 6.35 Malaysia 89 6.36 Mongolia 89 6.37 Morocco 89 6.38 Mozambique 89 6.38.1 Production of tantalum 90 6.38.2 International trade 90 6.38.3 Producers of tantalum 91 126.96.36.199 Noventa 91 188.8.131.52 Pacific Wildcat Resources 92 6.39 Namibia 93 6.4 Nigeria 94 6.41 Portugal 95 6.42 Russia 96 6.42.1 Reserves of tantalum minerals in Russia 96 6.42.2 International trade 97 6.42.3 Producers and processors of tantalum 97 184.108.40.206 Lovozero Mining-Concentrating Combine 97 220.127.116.11 Solikamsk Magnesium Works 98 18.104.22.168 Technoinvest Alliance 98 22.214.171.124 Other 98 6.43 Rwanda 99 6.44 Saudi Arabia 100 6.44.1 Tertiary Minerals 100 6.45 Sierra Leone 101 6.46 Somalia 101 6.47 South Africa 102 6.48 Spain 103 6.48.1 Solid Resources 103 6.49 Tanzania 104 6.5 Thailand 104 6.50.1 Production of tantalum 104 6.50.2 International trade 105 6.50.3 Producers and processors of tantalum 106 126.96.36.199 HC Starck 106 188.8.131.52 Thailand Smelting and Refining (Thaisarco) 106 6.51 Uganda 107 6.52 Ukraine 108 6.53 UK 108 6.54 USA 109 6.54.1 International trade in tantalum 109 6.54.2 Processors of tantalum in the USA 111 184.108.40.206 Cabot Supermetals/GAM Technology 111 220.127.116.11 Exotech 112 18.104.22.168 Hi-Temp Specialty Metals 112 22.214.171.124 Niotan/KEMET Blue Powder 113 126.96.36.199 HC Starck 113 6.55 Venezuela 113 6.56 Zambia 114 6.57 Zimbabwe 114 7 International trade in tantalum 115 7.1 Tantalum minerals 115 7.2 Tantalum products, waste and scrap 119 8 World consumption of tantalum 124 8.1 World consumption of tantalum to 2011 124 8.2 Forecast world demand for tantalum to 2016 126 8.3 Forecast tantalum supply/demand balance to 2016 127 9 End uses for tantalum 129 9.1 Capacitors 130 9.1.1 Capacitor materials, types and development 130 9.1.2 Producers of tantalum capacitors 132 9.1.3 Tantalum capacitors market 134 9.2 Other electronics applications 137 9.2.1 Sputtering targets 137 9.2.2 SAW filters 138 9.3 Alloy additives 139 9.3.1 Use of superalloys in aerospace 143 9.3.2 Use of superalloys in non-aerospace applications 148 9.4 Mill products 151 9.4.1 Corrosion-resistant applications for tantalum mill products 152 9.4.2 Other applications for tantalum mill products 155 9.5 Cemented carbides 157 9.6 Tantalum chemicals 159 10 Tantalum prices 161 10.1 Tantalum minerals 161 10.2 Tantalum products 163
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