Shifts in The Global Tantalum Supply Chain: 2011

GAM Will Mine Tantalum at Wodgina and Process It At Greenbushes:

Global Advanced Metals, formerly Talison Tantalum, announced January 17th the reopening of both its Wodgina and Greenbushes operations in Western Australia. Both mines, whose combined output at one time reached 2.2 million pounds of tantalite, were placed on care and maintenance during the recent global financial crisis. The operations at Wodgina and Greenbushes contain the world’s largest known resources of tantalum used in the production of a wide range of hi-tech products, particularly capacitor anodes consumed in personal computers, wireless handsets, automotive electronics; digital cameras, MP3 audio players, video game consoles, oil and gas electronics, medical implants; and a variety of capacitor circuit applications.  The highly sought metal is also a keen alloy used as an additive in cutting tools and wear parts; as both an optical and non-corrosive film; and as the primary element in tantalum sputtering targets used in the production of advanced semiconductors. At full strength, the Wodgina operations alone are capable of producing 1.4 million lbs of tantalum pentoxide annually, almost a third of the world’s 2010 supply. The initial restart involves 700,000 lbs per annum to be mined at Wodgina and subsequently shipped to and processed at the Greenbushes facility.

The Wodgina Tantalum Mine in Australia

Mine Operations Have Operational Infrastructure: Rapid Turn-Around Expected:

Global Advanced Metals crushing and milling infrastructure at the Wodgina operations are currently being used by Atlas Iron for its neighboring iron ore operations. The company’s agreement with Atlas enables it to recommence using and sharing this infrastructure with sufficient capacity to meet the company’s needs. Global Advanced Metals already has small existing stockpiles of ore at the site and stocks of processed material at Greenbushes.

Market Timing; Potential Tantalum Shortage Drove Decision To Re-Open:

Global Advanced Metals (formerly known as Talison, prior to it being named Sons of Gwalia) halted operations at the end of 2008 due to a combination of the Global Financial Crisis reducing demand for electronics and an increasing amount of conflict material entering the supply chain from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Chief Executive Officer, Bryan Ellis, said that market conditions and the supply chain had altered significantly during 2010 (See Related Story Below for January 2011 changes in the Congo) and the company had secured contracts that enabled it to restart mining and processing. “There has been strong growth in all sectors of tantalum demand and stockpiles are rapidly diminishing, with Global Advanced Metals the only producer able to fill the supply chain quickly.  We have also been working very closely with the major electronics companies and supporting international government efforts, particularly the United States, to remove conflict mined material from the supply chain. Consumers do not want material produced in non-ethical conditions in the products they purchase and it is essential that the tantalum industry supports all efforts to remove it from the supply chain.” said Mr Ellis in a statement released by the company.

Additional 200,000 Pounds To Come From Galaxy Lithium Mine in Western Australia:

Global Advanced Metals recently agreed to purchase tantalum pentoxide ore from the Galaxy Lithium mine in Western Australia. Approximately 200,000 lbs over the next five years will be processed at its Greenbushes plant. All material processed and sold by Global Advanced Metals will be mined in Australia.

GAM Committed To Keep Conflict Tantalum Out of The Supply Chain:

Mr Ellis said Global Advanced Metals will also remain active in the efforts to keep conflict or illegally mined or transported material out of the supply chain. He said the United States’ new Financial Stability Act, which was signed into law on 21 July 2010, was a major step forward as American companies are now required to disclose if their products contain tantalum sourced from the DRC. “Because of the Financial Stability Act and the work that the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) has undertaken to educate the industry about conflict mined materials, we are seeing a marked increase in the demand for responsible supplies of tantalum,” Mr Ellis said.

Author’s Note: See Related Stories From January 14 2011-

“iTSCi Is In Very Real Danger Of Failing” Says Richard Burt, President of the Tantalum Niobium International Study Center

HC Stark and Cabot Corp. To Share Tantalum Technology