Preliminary Information of Laboratorial Tantalum Recovery and Considerations for a Potential Solution for Conflict Mineral and Wildlife Conservation

Ryunosuke Kikuchi, Takaiku Yamamoto, Masashi Nakamoto


Tantalum is a rarely occurring transition metal which is chiefly used to manufacture capacitors for electronic appliances such as mobile phones. The demand for tantalum is expected to show an annual growth rate of about 5%; however, tantalum produced in the Democratic Republic of Congo is considered a conflict mineral due to illegal mining which is accelerating the extinction of lowland gorillas. Although tantalum recycling is desirable, the recycling technology has been poorly developed. Phase separation was applied to recover tantalum. It was expected that a copper phase could absorb tantalum, but tantalum was slightly transferred into an iron-rich phase in the Cu-Fe-C system. When ferric oxide was applied as an auxiliary, the tantalum was concentrated as precipitate on the surface of the iron-rich phase. In terms of practical application, a theoretical prediction suggests that the addition of a reductant will make it possible to recover tantalum as a high-purity powder. Since conflict, illicit exploration and hunting (bush-meat trade) have caused a decline in the population of wild animals, it is considered that a feasible tantalum recycling system will be helpful in solving such problems.

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