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Tantalite, Pilbara district, Australia
Category Oxide minerals
(repeating unit)
Strunz classification 4.DB.35
Crystal system Orthorhombic
Crystal class Dipyramidal (mmm)
H-M symbol: (2/m 2/m 2/m)
ColorDark black, iron-black to dark brown, reddish brown
Cleavage Good in one direction
Fracture Subconchoidal
Mohs scale hardness6-6.5
Luster Submetallic to almost resinous
Streak Brownish-red to black
Specific gravity 8.0+
References [1] [2]

The mineral group tantalite [(Fe, Mn)Ta 2 O 6] is the primary source of the chemical element tantalum. It is chemically similar to columbite , and the two are often grouped together as a semi-singular mineral called coltan or "columbite-tantalite" in many mineral guides. However, tantalite has a much greater specific gravity than columbite (8.0+ compared to columbite's 5.2). [2] Iron-rich tantalite is the mineral tantalite-(Fe) or ferrotantalite and manganese-rich is tantalite-(Mn) or manganotantalite.

Mineral Element or chemical compound that is normally crystalline and that has been formed as a result of geological processes

A mineral is, broadly speaking, a solid chemical compound that occurs naturally in pure form. A rock may consist of a single mineral, or may be an aggregate of two or more different minerals, spacially segregated into distinct phases. Compounds that occur only in living beings are usually excluded, but some minerals are often biogenic and/or are organic compounds in the sense of chemistry. Moreover, living beings often synthesize inorganic minerals that also occur in rocks.

Iron Chemical element with atomic number 26

Iron is a chemical element with symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal, that belongs to the first transition series and group 8 of the periodic table. It is by mass the most common element on Earth, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust.

Manganese Chemical element with atomic number 25

Manganese is a chemical element with the symbol Mn and atomic number 25. It is not found as a free element in nature; it is often found in minerals in combination with iron. Manganese is a transition metal with important industrial alloy uses, particularly in stainless steels.


Tantalite is also very close to tapiolite . Those minerals have same chemical composition, but different crystal symmetry orthorhombic for tantalite and tetragonal for tapiolite. [3]

Tapiolite oxide mineral

Tapiolite [(Fe, Mn)(Nb, Ta)2O6] is a black mineral series that is an ore of niobium and tantalum. The tapiolite group includes tapiolite-(Fe) or ferrotapiolite and tapiolite-(Mn) or manganotapiolite. Tapiolite-(Fe) is by far the more common of the two.

Tantalite is black to brown in both color and streak. Manganese-rich tantalites can be brown and translucent.


Manganotantalite from Alto do Giz, RN, Brazil Manganotantalite.jpg
Manganotantalite from Alto do Giz, RN, Brazil

Tantalite occurs in granitic pegmatites that are rich in rare-earth elements, and in placer deposits derived from such rocks. [4] It has been found in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia (Guainía and Vichada), Egypt, northern Europe, Madagascar, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, The Democratic Republic of Congo, the United States (California, Colorado, Maine, and Virginia), and Zimbabwe. Brazil has the world's largest reserve of tantalite (52.1%). [5] In 2006, 75% of world tantalite production came from Australia. [5]

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

Brazil Federal republic in South America

Brazil, officially the Federative Republic of Brazil, is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5 million square kilometers and with over 208 million people, Brazil is the world's fifth-largest country by area and the fifth most populous. Its capital is Brasília, and its most populated city is São Paulo. The federation is composed of the union of the 26 states, the Federal District, and the 5,570 municipalities. It is the largest country to have Portuguese as an official language and the only one in the Americas; it is also one of the most multicultural and ethnically diverse nations, due to over a century of mass immigration from around the world.

Canada Country in North America

Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Canada's southern border with the United States, stretching some 8,891 kilometres (5,525 mi), is the world's longest bi-national land border. Its capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. As a whole, Canada is sparsely populated, the majority of its land area being dominated by forest and tundra. Consequently, its population is highly urbanized, with over 80 percent of its inhabitants concentrated in large and medium-sized cities, with 70% of citizens residing within 100 kilometres (62 mi) of the southern border. Canada's climate varies widely across its vast area, ranging from arctic weather in the north, to hot summers in the southern regions, with four distinct seasons.


The mining of tantalite causes many environmental and social problems in Democratic Republic of Congo. [6] [7]

See also

Related Research Articles

Ore rock with valuable metals, minerals and elements

An ore is a natural occurrence of rock or sediment that contains sufficient minerals with economically important elements, typically metals, that can be economically extracted from the deposit. The ores are extracted at a profit from the earth through mining; they are then refined to extract the valuable element, or elements.

Tantalum Chemical element with atomic number 73

Tantalum is a chemical element with the symbol Ta and atomic number 73. Previously known as tantalium, its name comes from Tantalus, a villain from Greek mythology. Tantalum is a rare, hard, blue-gray, lustrous transition metal that is highly corrosion-resistant. It is part of the refractory metals group, which are widely used as minor components in alloys. The chemical inertness of tantalum makes it a valuable substance for laboratory equipment and a substitute for platinum. Its main use today is in tantalum capacitors in electronic equipment such as mobile phones, DVD players, video game systems and computers. Tantalum, always together with the chemically similar niobium, occurs in the mineral groups tantalite, columbite and coltan. Tantalum is considered a technology-critical element.

Coltan solid solution of columbite and tantalite one in another; a tantalum/niobium ore

Coltan is a dull black metallic ore, from which the elements niobium and tantalum are extracted. The niobium-dominant mineral in coltan is columbite, and the tantalum-dominant mineral is tantalite.

Columbite columbite series

Columbite, also called niobite, niobite-tantalite and columbate [(Fe, Mn)Nb2O6], is a black mineral group that is an ore of niobium. It has a submetallic luster and a high density and is a niobate of iron and manganese. This mineral group was first found in Haddam, Connecticut, in the United States. It forms a series with the tantalum-dominant analogue ferrotantalite and one with the manganese-dominant analogue manganocolumbite. The iron-rich member of the columbite group is ferrocolumbite. Some tin and tungsten may be present in the mineral. Yttrocolumbite is the yttrium-rich columbite with the formula (Y,U,Fe)(Nb,Ta)O4. It is a radioactive mineral found in Mozambique.

Wolframite intermediate mineral variety between hübnerite and ferberite

Wolframite, (Fe,Mn)WO4, is an iron manganese tungstate mineral that is the intermediate between ferberite (Fe2+ rich) and hübnerite (Mn2+ rich). Along with scheelite, the wolframite series are the most important tungsten ore minerals. Wolframite is found in quartz veins and pegmatites associated with granitic intrusives. Associated minerals include cassiterite, scheelite, bismuth, quartz, pyrite, galena, sphalerite, and arsenopyrite.

Manganese oxide is any of a variety of manganese oxides and hydroxides. These include

Cummingtonite amphibole, double chain inosilicate mineral

Cummingtonite is a metamorphic amphibole with the chemical composition (Mg,Fe2+)2(Mg,Fe2+)5Si8O22(OH)2, magnesium iron silicate hydroxide.

Oxide minerals Nickel–Strunz 9 ed mineral class number 4

The oxide mineral class includes those minerals in which the oxide anion (O2−) is bonded to one or more metal ions. The hydroxide-bearing minerals are typically included in the oxide class. The minerals with complex anion groups such as the silicates, sulfates, carbonates and phosphates are classed separately.

Tantalum pentoxide chemical compound

Tantalum pentoxide, also known as tantalum(V) oxide, is the inorganic compound with the formula Ta
. It is a white solid that is insoluble in all solvents but is attacked by strong bases and hydrofluoric acid. Ta
is an inert material with a high refractive index and low absorption, which makes it useful for coatings. It is also extensively used in the production of capacitors, due to its high dielectric constant.

Tantite is a rare tantalum oxide mineral with formula: Ta2O5. Tantite forms transparent microscopic colorless triclinic - pedial crystals with an adamantine luster. It has a Mohs hardness of 7 and a high specific gravity of 8.45. Chemical analyses show minor inclusion (1.3%) of niobium oxide.

Mining industry of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Mining industry of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a significant factor in the world's production of cobalt, copper, diamond, tantalum, tin, and gold. It is the Democratic Republic of the Congo's largest source of export income. In 2009, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) had an estimated $24 trillion in untapped mineral deposits, including the world's largest reserves of coltan and significant quantities of the world's cobalt. The United States Geological Survey estimates that the DRC has 1 million tons of lithium resources.

The mining of minerals in Nigeria accounts for only 0.3% of its GDP, due to the influence of its vast oil resources. The domestic mining industry is underdeveloped, leading to Nigeria having to import minerals that it could produce domestically, such as salt or iron ore. Rights to ownership of mineral resources is held by the Federal government of Nigeria, which grants titles to organizations to explore, mine, and sell mineral resources. Organized mining began in 1903 when the Mineral Survey of the Northern Protectorates was created by the British colonial government. A year later, the Mineral Survey of the Southern Protectorates was founded. By the 1940s, Nigeria was a major producer of tin, columbite, and coal. The discovery of oil in 1956 hurt the mineral extraction industries, as government and industry both began to focus on this new resource. The Nigerian Civil War in the late 1960s led many expatriate mining experts to leave the country. Mining regulation is handled by the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, which oversees the management of all mineral resources. Mining law is codified in the Federal Minerals and Mining Act of 1999. Historically, Nigeria's mining industry was monopolized by state-owned public corporations. This led to a decline in productivity in almost all mineral industries. The Obasanjo administration began a process of selling off government-owned corporations to private investors in 1999.

The regulation of mining in Equatorial Guinea is handled by the Ministry of Mines, Industry, and Energy, which oversees activities in the mining and petroleum industries.

Wodginite oxide mineral

Wodginite is a manganese, tin, tantalum oxide mineral with formula Mn2+(Sn,Ta)Ta2O8. It may include significant niobium.

Simpsonite oxide mineral

Simpsonite has a general formula of Al4(Ta,Nb)3O13(OH). It occurs as euhedral to subhedral tabular to short and prismatic crystals, commonly in subparallel groups. Under the petrographic microscope it has a very high relief.

Coltan mining and ethics

Coltan, also referred to as tantalum, is a metallic ore from which the very similar elements niobium, also known as columbium, and tantalum are extracted. Coltan mining has been associated with human rights violations such as child labour, systematic exploitation of the population by governments or militant groups, exposure to toxic chemicals and other hazards as a result of lax environmental protection, and general safety laws and regulations.

Ixiolite an oxide mineral with the consisting of tantalum (Ta), niobium (Nb) and tin (Sn) and often found in granitic pegmatites.

Ixiolite is an accessory oxide mineral found in granitic pegmatites. It is an oxide with the general chemical formula (Ta,Nb,Sn,Mn,Fe)4O8 or (Ta,Mn,Nb)O2.

Szklaryite is an extremely rare mineral with the formula []Al6BAs33+O15. It is essentially vacant ("[]"), arsenic-dominant member of dumortierite supergroup, giving a name of szklaryite group. It is one of three quite recently found minerals of this group, the other two being nioboholtite and titanoholtite, all coming from the Szklary village near Ząbkowice Śląskie in Poland. They occur in a unique pegmatite of probable anatectic origin.

Geology of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The geology of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, commonly abbreviated as DRC, also known as Congo-Kinshasa and formerly as Zaire and Belgian Congo, is extremely old, on the order of several billion years for many rocks. The country spans the Congo Craton: a stable section of ancient continental crust, deformed and influenced by several different mountain building orogeny events, sedimentation, volcanism and the geologically recent effects of the East Africa Rift System in the east. The country's complicated tectonic past have yielded large deposits of gold, diamonds, coltan and other valuable minerals.


  1. "TANTALITE (Iron Manganese Tantalum Niobium Oxide)". Galleries.com. Retrieved 2011-10-25.
  2. 1 2 Tantalite. Mindat.org (2011-09-07). Retrieved on 2011-10-30.
  3. P. Cerny; et al. (1992). "The tantalite-tapiolite gap: natural assemblages versus experimental data" (PDF). Canadian Mineralogist. 30: 587.
  4. Melcher, Frank; et al. (June 2008). "Fingerprinting of conflict minerals: columbite-tantalite ("coltan") ores" (PDF). SGA News (23): 1. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  5. 1 2 Papp, John F. (2006). "2006 Minerals Yearbook Nb & Ta". US Geological Survey. Retrieved 2008-06-03.
  6. Coltan, Gorillas and cellphones Archived 2005-04-07 at the Wayback Machine . Cellular-news.com (2001-04-03). Retrieved on 2011-10-30.
  7. The Coltan Scandal. Geology.about.com (2010-07-04). Retrieved on 2011-10-30.