Empowering the Tech-Driven World

Tantalum

Tantalum demand continues to grow as the production of high-tech and smart electronic devices increases.
Andrada Mining Tantalum Producer

Overview

Tantalum for Electronic Device Production

Tantalum (periodic table symbol Ta) is a highly corrosion-resistant, shiny, silvery metal typically found in columbite-tantalite, which also contains other metals such as niobium.

Although it is occasionally found uncombined, separating tantalum from niobium is complex. It is often procured commercially as a tin extraction by-product.

Uses

Tantalum ore is mined and processed into concentrate, which is then used to produce a range of tantalum chemicals or refined into metal for use in niche metal products or alloys. 

Tantalum Periodic Symbol

Due to its non-toxic nature, tantalum has several vital applications, such as in surgical implants, because it does not cause negative immune responses.

Since it is corrosion-resistant, tantalum is also particularly useful for handling corrosive materials. The metal's alloys can be exceptionally strong and are ideal for applications like turbine blades, rocket nozzles and nose caps on supersonic aircraft.

Tantalum is essential for high-performance applications such as capacitors, superalloys, and electronics for aerospace, military, and consumer use.

Often applied as an extremely thin coating for other metals, tantalum is attractive for use in portable electronics such as smartphones. In the ongoing electrification of homes and vehicles, tantalum ensures safety in autonomous vehicles and maintains performance in next-generation electrical devices and communication technology. Its use is often limited to high-performance applications because of its high cost.

Mining

Supply

Tantalum's unique set of properties makes it critical in many of the applications in which it is used. However, global production is relatively small and limited to a few key regions and producers.

A limited number of companies produce only a few thousand tonnes of Ta₂O⁵ every year. The regional distribution of tantalum production is currently in major flux.

Tantalum supply increased by around 8.2% annually from 2010-2019, going from 1 031 tonnes to 2 101 tonnes of tantalum pentoxide (Ta₂O⁵). 

Forecast Supply of Tantalum by Region:  2019 - 2029 (t Ta₂O₅)

Market

Demand

China is the world's largest importer of tantalum minerals and imports from almost every country where tantalum is mined. The country is by far the main destination for tantalum-niobium minerals produced in central Africa. It is also a large purchaser of tin slags. Exports of tantalum minerals from China are negligible.

Tantalum made up 36% of the 2,4 kt estimated demand for capacitors in 2019. Significant growth in chemical applications and tantalum mill products is expected in the future. Capacitors are the largest application of tantalum and made up 37% of total consumption in 2019. They are high-value and used in niche high-performance applications such as aerospace, military, medical, and automotive.



World Forecast Demand Growth for Tantalum by Application:  2019 - 2029 (Quantity:  tTa)



World Forecast Demand Growth for Tantalum by Application: 2019 - 2029 (CAGR: %py)

Expected

Outlook

Demand is expected to grow by 4,6% annually, reaching 3 595 tonnes of tantalum by 2029. The tantalum capacitor market will keep growing in the long term because of the need for higher-performance components in various applications, such as electric or autonomous vehicles, 5G network infrastructure, and household devices. Demand for tantalum in capacitors may increase by 5,3% annually until 2029.

The semiconductor market drives demand for sputtering targets, along with the smaller magnetic data storage and inkjet printer markets, which are also expected to continue growing until 2029. In the long term, the adoption of online cloud storage may pressure physical data storage, but hardware is still required to run these services, likely using tantalum in capacitors.

Increased petrochemical production by the US chemical industry has boosted the demand for anti-corrosive mill products that contain tantalum. In the future, there could be a shift towards using tantalum coatings rather than whole products. This would decrease the amount of tantalum used per item, but it is expected to increase the number of cost-effective applications for tantalum.

As the demand for tantalum is expected to grow at a healthy rate, existing producers are expected to increase their supply. Due to higher demand, Roskill forecasts expect global supply to grow by 4,3% (to 3 214 tonnes Ta₂O⁵) by 2029 in its lower-case scenario and by 5.2% annually (to 3 490 tonnes Ta₂O⁵) in its higher-case scenario. Africa will remain the largest producing region and also experience relatively strong growth of 3,4% per annum.