Tantalum (Ta) is a grey, heavy, very hard metal with a high melting point (2996°C). When pure, it is ductile and can be easily fabricated. Tantalum has good rectifying properties (ie, converts alternating to direct current) and dielectric properties (ie, does not conduct direct current). Alloyed with other metals it imparts strength, ductility and a high melting point. The principal industrial use is in electric capacitors and cemented carbide cutting tools. Because of its high resistance to corrosion by most acids, tantalum is used increasingly by petroleum and chemical plants.
Global demand for tantalum has increased since the mid-1990s, due to the use of tantalum capacitors in small portable electronic components such as laptop computers, video cameras, game consoles and mobile phones. The growth in demand for the metal will increase due to new markets, such as under-hood applications in automobiles and computer memory chips and processors.
It occurs principally in the mineral columbite-tantalite. Tantalum ores are found in Canada, Australia, Brazil, Zaire and China. In Thailand and Malaysia, it is recovered mainly from tin slags. Tantalum Mining Co of Canada, Ltd (TANCO), Canada's only producer, is located in Bernic Lake, Man.