The metal is increasingly sourced from conflict-ridden countries.
TREND WATCH: The source of tantalum, a metal used in the electronics industry and for specialized mechanical parts, has shifted dramatically over the past 15 years, according to a report from the United States Geological Survey.
In 2000, Australia produced 45% of the world’s tantalum concentrates (tantalum-containing minerals) but by 2014 that number had dropped to 4%. In 2014, Rwanda produced 50% of global tantalum concentrates, up from 12% in 2000; the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) produced 17% in 2014, up from 9% in 2000.
Tantalum is a 'conflict mineral', meaning that its sale may be directly financing armed conflict. Companies seeking tantalum must take care to find out whether the mineral has come from the DRC, Congo or neighbouring countries, the report says, where there are concerns that tantalum mining might be funding rebel groups accused of human-rights violations.
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Sanderson, K. Concerns raised over tantalum mining. Nature (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature.2015.19023