• Tantalum Pentoxide
  • Mines Producing Tantalum Pentoxide

The white solid inorganic compound of tantalum pentoxide is also widely known as being tantalum oxide. It is attacked by hydrofluoric acid and strong basis but insoluble in all solvents. When it is added to glass, that is being manufactured for optical lenses, the lenses can be made thinner and lighter, attributes that are well suited for special optical applications such as cameras etc. The addition of tantalum pentoxide allows the glass properties to better reach the desired distribution of colour therefore allowing it to be specifically set.

Tantalum is found in the mineral tantalite and columbite. Columbite being connected to columbium that was once known as niobium. It occurs naturally in pegmatites that are igneous rock formations. When tantalite and columbite is mixed it is called coltan.

Tantalum ore is often found to contain rather large amounts of niobium, a valuable metal in its own right. A feature that makes mining for tantalum attractive as both metals are highly sought after. Tantalum is separated from the host ore by a process known as hydrometallurgy that begins with leaching. Leaching consists of treating the ore with sulphuric and hydrofluoric acid that produces hydrogenfluorides that allow the metals to separate from the non-metallic rock.

Tantalum pentoxide is widely used to produce lithium tantalate single crystals that are cut into wafers. These wafers are used in the manufacturing of surface acoustic wave filters that have uses in the following products:
Smart metres
Tablet PC's
GPS applications
Automotive electronics
Game systems
Tools for cutting metal and machining
Metal alloys in the aerospace and electricity generating industries

Australia has been the largest producer of tantalum for many years in the form of tantalite concentrate. It has been estimated that there are 62 kilotonnes of tantalum held in reserve in Australia that produces around half of the world's annual requirement. The world reserve of tantalum is estimated to be 131 kilotonnes. Brazil in the only country with more tantalum than Australia having a reserve of 65 kilotonnes. Tantalum is currently mined in Australia at Wodgina, 100 kilometres from Port Hedland and the Greenbushes mining operation, 250 kilometres south of Perth and Mount Cattlin. It is also found at Mount Weld, Halls Creek, Arthur River, Dalgaranga and Mount Deans in Western Australia, as well as the Toongi deposit in New South Wales.

Alkane Resources Limited have constructed a pilot plant at ANSTO Minerals Lucas Heights facility in Sydney where it has recovered many tonnes of niobium, tantalum, zirconia and rare earth concentrate from ore sourced from the Toogi deposit, 20 kilometres, south of Dubbo in New South Wales.

Tantalum Facts:
- Tantalum is the 49th most abundant element on Earth
- It can be produced as a by product in the smelting of tin
- It can be extracted from concentrates by reduction with the use of fused salt electrolysis or sodium Tantalum carbide is produced by the carbonisation of tantalum pentoxide
- Raw tantalum is refined and purified by sintering, electric arc melting, or electron beam melting
- Tantalum has diverse applications ranging from hard metal tooling to capacitors and chemical equipment
- The demand for tantalum peroxide is expected to increase because of the growing electronic equipment market

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