Why US Tantalum Imports – And Prices – Are Skyrocketing

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MetalMiner welcomes guest contributor Chelsea Craven of Zepol Corporation, a Minneapolis-based trade intelligence company. 

If you’re in the tantalum supply business, I’d like to be your friend.

The rare, shiny transition metal (one of the so-called Conflict Minerals) is – yes, you guessed it – exploding with demand in the United States.

Just as tablets and smartphones are the latest and greatest fad in the consumer world, tantalum is the most recent craze in the metal world. For those of you in the business, that may not come as a surprise at all. The corrosion-resistant metal is actually a component in many electronic gadgets, including the computer, smartphone, or tablet you’re likely reading this article from.

Are you a manufacturer sourcing tantalum? You need to be here.

The U.S. tantalum trade had a seesaw-like swing in 2012. Imports of tantalum were flying high, while exports were on the other side of the spectrum. How big is the spread, exactly?

In 2012, total imports of tantalum increased by 55%, with unwrought tantalum specifically seeing an 88% increase. Fun fact of the day: tantalum imports accounted for 0.05% of all U.S. air imports in 2012. Tantalum exports, on the other hand, dipped by 16%, with unwrought decreasing by 30%.

tantalum prices

As far as tantalum imports into the United States are concerned, the No. 1 Supplier Award goes to China, keeping pace with the U.S. demand. Last year, imports of tantalum from China increased by 93% and totaled $109 million. Other notable increases came from Thailand (130%) and Indonesia (310%). The graph below shows the breakdown of where tantalum imports originate.

tantalum prices

Often, and this is no exception, fads come with a hefty price…literally. The price per kilogram of tantalum imports to the U.S. increased by 170% in just one year. The rise in price was mostly seen in imports by air, as shown in the graph below. The average import price of tantalum went from $110 in 2011 to nearly $300 in 2012. The craze is continuing into 2013 as well, with January numbers showing the average price at $360.

tantalum price

As the newest gadgets and electronics continue to evolve, the demand for tantalum will prove it is more than just a short fad. One question we are asking is: how far can the price go until the demand plateaus? That, my friends, will have to wait for another article.

* Look for follow-up commentary and analysis from Lisa Reisman, MetalMiner’s managing editor, on exactly what’s behind the tantalum spike in the coming days!

Comments (5)

  1. GMH says:

    it is not the “so called conflict mineral”, it was made de facto conflivt mineral in some places but I think its giving a wrong idea about it to called it so like all tantalum is conflict mineral, we’ll that is my personal view anyway bring in the so called region and business for over 15 years

  2. Hey there Georges, in your run-on sentence there you may have hit on some points of truth…but the bottom line is that tantalum sourced from a handful of nations in Africa is indeed a Conflict Mineral, one of the 3 Ts in “3TG,” and most importantly, a metal that US manufacturers must make sure is certified “Conflict-free” if they source it. You can read up on it here if you’d like! http://agmetalminer.com/definitive-guide-to-conflict-minerals-compliance-for-manufacturers/

  3. Aaron El Antonio says:

    Feel free to contact me if you have tantalum. Here is my number 347-613-4442

  4. Jorel says:

    Hello I am having hard time finding these buyers in the USA. I have a huge supply of tantalum. Do you have anyone you can link me with?

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