The tantalum market is expected to grow over the next four years. Not without, however, risking dramatic price peaks if supplies were to be interrupted.
We have often dealt with tantalum, a rare metal that, for a whole series of reasons we will see, has also attracted the attention of many readers.
It will therefore please many to know that, according to a recent study, tantalum could be the protagonist of a strong rise in the coming years. In fact, according to Technavio, a London market research company, the global market for this metal, between 2017 and 2021, is destined to grow with an annual growth rate of over 3%.
For those who have never heard of tantalum, it will be enough to know that it was discovered in 1802 by the Swedish chemist Anders Gustaf Ekeberg. It is a highly corrosion-resistant metal of acids, which boasts a high melting point, as well as being a good conductor of heat and electricity. But, what is certainly more interesting are its uses, barely visible but under the eyes of all …
No tantalum … no smartphone!
Tantalum is in fact the key component of the capacitors, those gadgets that fill any miniaturized electronic device, from smartphones to personal computers.
According to the Technavio study, following the growth of 1.3 billion smartphones in the coming years, tantalum will benefit from such robust demand. A demand fueled mainly by the spread of the Internet and new technologies in developing countries.
If we look at the supply front from the point of view of Western countries, the picture is worrying. No country has a mining industry and, for Europe and North America, the only possibility is that of imports from the few countries in the world that produce it.
Offer at risk
Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Brazil, China and Australia are the main producers of tantalum. Tantalum is therefore mainly concentrated in an area of Africa that is very unstable politically and marked by the exploitation of child labor, in inhumane conditions, for the extraction of the mineral.
Under such conditions, the risk of sudden supply disruptions is concrete and, in a context of increasing demand, this would have a disruptive effect on prices.
At this point, analysts can only add: “warned man … half saved!”