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Tantalum Market Update March 2024 Is the upward trend nearing a stall due to lack of real demand?

In my previous report, I predicted a rebound from the very bottom, and that is exactly what happened. Tantalite has gone from $60 per pound at the end of December to $80 per pound as of March 11. This is the first time since last July 2023 that it has been at the $80 level and appears to be on the upswing.

 

(Tantalum Concentrate Market Price $/lb  Price of arrival in China from Africa)

 

However, a tantalum trader expressed a pessimistic view, saying, "It is going up because Chinese (stocking) buying is continuing, but since it is not accompanied by real demand, it will probably come down soon.

 

Indeed, when we ask about the actual demand side, tantalum capacitors are still not in good shape. As far as Japan is concerned, domestic demand for tantalum is lackluster. This is largely because capacitor makers are shifting production overseas. Panasonic is in Indonesia, Kyocera in Thailand, and Kemet in Taiwan's Yageo.

 

In addition, LT (lithium tantalate), which once enjoyed prosperity in smartphones, has been replaced by LN (lithium niobium) as a material due to the increasing performance of smartphones, and tantalum's place in the market has further declined. However, fortunately or unfortunately, on the other hand, demand for tantalum for use in super alloys, which accounts for half of all tantalum demand, is still growing, which is a relief. Tantalum raw materials are used in military and other applications.

 

Therefore, demand for tantalum scrap has been strong for such super alloy applications, with prices in the high 20,000-yen per ton range. Some tantalum suppliers in Japan do not buy concentrates but continue to purchase scrap, so there is a high need for recycled raw materials in the tantalum market.

 

*********************

 

There is another topic in the market for tantalum concentrates. This is the battle for leadership between RMI and ITSCI, as indicated in the title of this article.

 

The Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI) is an organization established to address the issue of conflict minerals. To reiterate, conflict minerals are mineral resources mined in conflict areas such as African countries. In particular, the U.S. Financial Regulatory Reform Act (Dodd-Frank Act) defines the four mineral resources to be regulated as tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold (3TG).

 

Conflict minerals first became an issue in the 1990s when rough diamonds were smuggled from areas occupied by rebel militants in the Angola and Sierra Leone conflicts and used to finance the conflict.

 

(Reference Articles)

Interview with Dr. Daniel Persico, President of TIC, Tantalum and Niobium Industry Association

https://www.iru-miru.com/article_detail.php?id=55063

Addressing Conflict Minerals RMI Marianna Smirnova

https://www.iru-miru.com/article_detail.php?id=28158

International Tantalum Niobium Summit 2019 Successfully Held

https://www.iru-miru.com/article_detail.php?id=28142

 

Is the ITSCI program alone a one-size-fits-all? Logistics security too.

https://www.iru-miru.com/article_detail.php?id=26357

 

What are Conflict Minerals? in Rwanda

https://www.iru-miru.com/article_detail.php?id=26352

 

Conflict minerals investigations are conducted by the RMAP (formerly the CFSP) program to trace back through the supply chain to identify smelters and confirm that they are not procuring minerals to finance armed groups in the DRC and nine surrounding countries.

 

The Conflict Minerals Survey will be renamed in 2018 and the new name is the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI). The survey will use RMI's Conflict Minerals Reporting Template (CMRT).

 

In contrast, ITSCI (iTSCi) is a multi-stakeholder program aimed at responsible mineral supply chains. ITSCI conducts training activities and visits in collaboration with the Rwanda Mines, Oil and Gas Board (RMB). As mentioned in the reference article above, raw materials that are recognized as conflict-free by the ITSCI are guaranteed by attaching a "tag" to them. For the last 20 years, this ITSCI tag has become a sign of trust and is practically used in the world trade of tungsten, tin, and gold, including tantalum.

 

It is true that in the past there have been pros and cons to that certification system, including the buying and selling of these tags.

 

Here, the aforementioned RMI has said that it "does not recognize" ITSCI's certification and that it will remove the certification, causing some confusion. Here we hear from the tantalum trader again.

 

He said “I think TIC (Tantalum niobium research center) is half fed up with the bickering that has been going on for about three years now. On the ground (in Rwanda and Congo), business is normal, and there is no hindrance to business. Japanese manufacturers should be able to buy it. However, tantalum smelters are in a quandary: If RMI refuses to recognize ITSCI certification, then which tantalum mines in which countries would be acceptable? The RMI has not come up with an alternative. From my point of view, I think it is just a battle of the cups, a struggle for control.”

 

 

However, the tantalite market is said to be rising partly due to this confusion (according to foreign media), but in the end, without an upsurge in actual demand, the tantalite market will stall soon, as noted at the beginning of this report.

 

 

(IRUNIVERSE/MIRU YT, translated by S. Aoyama)

 

 

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