UN Report Covering Tantalum Mining In The Congo Results in Interesting Survey Responses

Many Say Sanctions are Not Effective

The United Nations has decided to keep sanctions in place against the Democratic Republic of The Congo (DRC) for 2010. These sanctions will attempt to prevent the export of tantalum ore from the region- do you think these sanctions will be successful?

The majority of the survey respondents to this question -59%, believed sanctions would be unsuccessful in preventing the export of tantalum ore from the Congo; while 27% said that sanctions would be successful, and an additional 14% said they were not knowledgeable enough about this sensitive issue to comment.

Those that commented that sanctions would be unsuccessful had a general agreement among them that demand for the metal was too great to be ignored by competing nations and industries and therefore the Congo would continue to export the metal as supply became more difficult to obtain, regardless of sanctions. One commenter from China noted that UN sanctions had only served to make the tantalum more difficult to obtain and this only served to raise the price, not curtail its flow.

Those respondents that believed that sanctions would be successful were further up the supply chain, usually at the key brands in the computer and wireless market segment; who made it very clear that they did not want any “conflict” tantalum in their end-products and had made this abundantly apparent up and down their respective component supply chains. This lead some respondents to surmise that other industries that consume tantalum, with no ties to the consumer markets, are probably still sourcing tantalum from the Congo through intermediaries and traders for applications in the cemented carbide industry in Asia. These assumptions cannot be confirmed and the UN report did not draw this conclusion.

Paumanok Publications, Inc. analysis of the 287 page United Nations Report entitled “Final Report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo”; released December 4, 2009, notes that 573,985 kilograms of tantalum ore was exported from North and South Kivu between January and September of 2009, which puts the DRC on a run-rate to move about 765,000 kilograms of tantalum ore for CY 2009. Based upon a comparison of United Nations statistics for tantalum ore exports from both the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo for 2008 it appears there has been a 53% increase in tantalum ore output in the Congo in 2009 (when UN sanctions were in affect).

Additional Resources: (1) Tantalum Capacitors: World Markets, Technologies & Opportunities: 2010-2015 ISBN # 1-893211-11-8 (© April 2010) (2) TANTALUM: Global Market Outlook: 2008-2013 ISBN # 0-929717-81-3 (2008)