Meaning of Coltan

What is Coltan:

The mineral composed of columbite and tantalite is known as coltan, in fact its name derives from the abbreviation of these two minerals.

For this reason, it is not a scientific name for a specific element, but rather for an undefined combination of minerals. That is, sometimes there is more percentage of one mineral than the other.

The columbite (COL) is a mineral that contains niobium dioxide, iron and magnesium (Fe, Mn) and, the tantalite (TAN), is composed of tantalum oxide, iron and magnesium (Fe, Mn).

Those oxides that make up coltan are what give it the particularity of being a solid element.

Now, the percentages that can be found of columbite or tantalite in coltan are variable. That is, sometimes there may be more of one or the other. However, it is still coltan, since precisely this mineral results from the union of these.

It should be noted that from the mixture of columbite and tantalum, niobium and tantalum are extracted, elements highly used in the development of modern electronics.

The reason why coltan is characterized as a solid mineral, dark in color and rare in nature, is because of the union of columbite and tantalum.

Coltan is highly sought after, exploited in mines and marketed for its great utility in the manufacture of electronic devices, especially the latest generation such as, for example, Smartphone.

Coltan extraction

Coltan is a fairly rare mineral. Few countries have this mineral and that exploit it. For this reason, there have even been a diversity of conflicts and geopolitical confrontations, especially in the Congo.

The countries that have the largest reserves of coltan and where it is most extracted are Australia, Canada, China, Brazil, Rwanda, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the latter having the largest reserve so far discovered.

There is also another list of countries that have found the mineral, in large or small quantities, but whose extraction is less or still null. Among these countries are Russia, Afghanistan, Uganda, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Colombia and Venezuela.

However, beyond the qualities and usefulness of coltan, unfortunately the method of extraction of this mineral generates great damage to the ecosystem.

The soil is excavated by making large holes, then the earth is wetted with large amounts of water and the mud that forms passes through a tube. The mineral, being heavy, remains at the bottom of the mud and then moves away.

However, in the Congo, the extraction of coltan has generated major ecological, deforestation and human health problems. They are destroying protected areas where animals in danger of extinction live, such as the gorilla.

In addition to this serious situation, coltan smuggling networks have also been generated, in which they use man as a kind of slave and even use child labor for the extraction of said mineral.

The Congo is experiencing a difficult political situation due to the illegal extraction and commercialization of coltan smuggling networks. It is a major problem that negatively affects everything involved in the production of this mineral.

Uses of coltan

Coltan has turned out to be a very useful mineral for the development of new technologies.

Among the properties that stand out are its great conductivity, its capacitive nature to store and release electricity, as well as being highly refractory and resistant to corrosion.

This mineral is widely used in the telecommunications industry, because it has niobium and tantalum, for the manufacture of mobile phones such as Smartphone, video game consoles, laptops.

Other uses are for the development of various aerospace equipment, such as satellites, stations and space vehicles, among others. Coltan is also used in the manufacture of weapons, capacitors and surgical implants.

On the other hand, coltan is very useful to form the steel alloy in oil pipelines, as well as, in the manufacture of batteries, hence the batteries of mobile phones are smaller and of greater durability than the old ones.

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