Despite its importance in the world today, tantalum mining takes place in very few countries. Only four countries produced tantalum in 2016, and most was mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), an area known for issues related to conflict minerals.
Rwanda, Brazil and China were the other top countries for tantalum mining last year. Read on to learn more about the world’s largest producers of the metal; all statistics come from the US Geological Survey’s most recent report on tantalum.
Mine production: 450 MT
Rwanda took the top spot for tantalum mining in 2015, but in 2016 the DRC took the lead again, producing about 40 percent of the world’s tantalum. In total, it put out 450 metric tons (MT) last year.
As mentioned, mining practises in the DRC have a reputation for being being corrupt. Steps have been taken to discourage companies from purchasing tantalum produced unethically in the country, but they have faced challenges. For instance, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was designed in part to stop the flow of conflict minerals from countries like the DRC, has been slow to have an impact on buyers of conflict minerals. Recently, the Trump administration voiced a desire to repeal some parts of the act.
Mine production: 300 MT
Rwanda is one of the world’s biggest tantalum producers, but like the DRC its standing is fraught with controversy — it is an open secret that much of Rwanda’s mineral production arrives from countries like the DRC, where conflict minerals are an issue.
For that reason, it is difficult to ascertain how much tantalum is actually produced by Rwandan mines. Better Sourcing is one company aiming to make the Rwandan mining industry more transparent.
Mine production: 115 MT
Brazil is the largest tantalum-producing country outside of Africa. Overall, Brazil is home to 36,000 MT of tantalum reserves.
The country’s largest tantalum mine is the MIBRA project, owned by Advanced Metallurgical Group (AMS:AMG). In light of issues facing tantalum from Rwandan and Congolese suppliers, Brazil could become a major source of tantalum for companies around the world in the coming years. In 2016, the country was the largest supplier of tantalum minerals to the US, accounting for 38 percent of imports.
Mine production: 60 MT
China is a major tantalum producer and is the biggest supplier of tantalum metal to US companies. Almost 37 percent of the tantalum metal exported to the US comes from China, according to the US Geological Survey, and the country’s production has held steady year-over-year.
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This is an updated version of an article originally published by the Investing News Network in 2013.
Securities Disclosure: I, Sivansh Padhy, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.