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)
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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