Tantalite Mining in Africa and Beyond
Tantalite is a mineral group and the main source of tantalum, a chemical element which is hard, rare, and considered to be an important commodity, especially in the electrical and computer industries. Because it has a melting point of more than 3,000 degrees Celsius, this brown-to-black-coloured mineral can sustain high temperatures and is highly resistant to corrosion. Chemically, tantalite is similar to columbite, and the two minerals are often grouped together in mineral guides. However, the specific gravity of tantalite is significantly higher than that of columbite. Tantalite is challenging to process and is therefore not extensively mined despite the rising demand for it as it.
Tantalite appears in granites and other hard rock deposits like carbonites and pegmatites that contain extensive rare-earth elements. Most tantalite mines are open pit, though there are some underground mines. To mine the mineral, the ore has to be blasted and crushed before undergoing separation processes like electromagnetic/electrostatic processes or gravity/wet-gravity techniques. As the ore is processed, impurities are dissolved and other ores such as manganese, iron, uranium, and silicon are usually also found and go to other uses.
Where Tantalite Is Mined
Tantalite is not an abundant mineral and it is only found in certain countries around the world like Australia, Brazil, Russia, China, Canada, and several African countries. Tantalite mines in Africa are mostly open pit. The Tanco Mine in Canada and the Bald Hill Mine in Australia are examples of underground tantalite mines.
Top Countries for Tantalite Production
The world’s largest reserves of tantalite are located in Brazil and Australia. One of the world’s most significant tantalum producers is Rwanda where the mineral is mined and also imported from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Around 30% of the world’s tantalite is mined in the DRC. Before tantalum production in Africa became this vast, Australia was known as the country that mined the most tantalite in the world. There are also tantalite mining facilities in Russia, China, Canada, and Ethiopia.
Tantalite in Africa
Although tantalite is extensively mined in Rwanda and DRC, the industry is not well regulated, and sustainable practices are not maintained. Most of the tantalite mining in central Africa is done through artisanal mining using manual labour and tools in alluvial and soft rock deposits, creating major social and environmental problems.
Major Tantalite Expansion Set for Namibia
In early 2020, Kazera Global announced the acquisition of additional interests in the mineral sands of the Tantalite Valley Mine in Namibia. It is widely anticipated that the rapidly expanding market for this mineral in the automotive, aerospace and construction industries will drive further expansion of tantalite mining initiatives throughout Africa.