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Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook: Metals and minerals 1977
Year 1977, Volume 1 (1977)

Jones, Thomas S.
Columbium and tantalum,   pp. 317-327 ff. PDF (1.3 MB)


Page 317

  317Columbium and Tantalum 
By Thomas S. Jonesl 
 All columbium and tantalum raw materials were imported in 1977; there was
no U.S. mine production and there were no stockpile releases of any consequence.
Coinpared with the 1976 figures, imports of mineral concentrates, tin slags,
and other raw material forms were, on the basis of content, 8% less for columbium
and 42% greater for tantalum. Receipts of raw materials of such byproduct
origin as tin slags were a particularly large part of tantalum raw material
imports. Consumption of raw materials decreased 9% for columbium and 2% for
tantalum, both again on a content basis. Tin slag constituted the majority
of raw materials inventories. 
 Increases in raw materials prices for both columbium and tantalum helped
lead to higher prices for most primary and intermediate products. For columbium,
raw materials prices rose about 13%. For tantalum, ore and concentrate prices
increased about 40%, and product price advances made more probable the substitution
of alternate materials in tantalum end uses. 
 Consumption of ferrocolumbium was at the second highest level on record.
The amount consumed was 29% greater than in 1976, ~as nearly twice as much
was used in superalloys and higher amounts~were used in all main steelmaking
categories. Imports provided the greater part of ferrocolumbium supply and
were about twice the quantity produced domestically. 
 At about $24 million, the value of columbium and tantalum exports was a
record amount. Tantalum in various forms made up much more of the total than
did columbium. Tantalum also constituted a greater share of the combined
metal, alloy, and scrap imports, which were over 100% great- 
er than those of 1976. 
 Legislation and Government Programs.—Changes in U.S. Government
inventories
of columbitim and tantalum materials were insignificant in 1977, and there
were no sales of stockpile excesses. Stocks of columbium concentrates declined
by 32 pounds of contained columbium, while those of tantalum minerals increased
by 3,513 pounds of contained tantalum. 
 In February 1977 the U.S. Government imposed a moratorium on requests for
new stockpile acquisitions and disposals, pending review of stockpile policy
and of goals established on October 1, 1976. On October 7, 1977, the moratorium
was lifted when President Carter reaffirmed major elements of the strategic
and critical materials stockpile policy developed in 1976. Long-range stockpile
goals were not changed by this action. However, progress towards the goals
was to be achieved through an Annual Materials Plan as developed by an Interagency
Annual Materials Plan Steering Committee chaired by the Federal Preparedness
Agency (FPA) of the General Services Administration. Subsequently, FPA announced
a policy whereby shortages of a given material would be offset by surplus
inventories of a related material. 
 As of yearend 1977, under the offset concept 94% of the goal for columbium
concentrates was met. However, goals for all three tantalum stockpile items
were far greater than inventories, and no offsets could be applied. The inventory
of tantalum minerals was about one-half of the goal. For tantalum carbide
powder and tantalum metal, inventories represented only 3% and 12% of the
respective goals. 


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