'Coltan' is an abbreviation used only in parts of Africa for 'columbo-tantalite', it is a local name or nickname. Mineral concentrates containing tantalum are usually referred to as 'tantalite'. Columbite contains the element columbium, another name for niobium; tantalite contains tantalum.
Coltan from artisanal mining (Karen Hayes)
Tantalite is the mineral or ore, and tantalum is the metallic element which can be extracted (or refined) from the ore. 'Coltan' from central Africa is only one of many sources of tantalum.
The main supply of the world's tantalum comes from Australia and Brazil, while tantalum minerals are also mined in China, the DRC, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Russia and Rwanda. Tantalum is also produced in Thailand and Malaysia as a by-product of tin mining and smelting.
Tantalum raw materials also occur in many other countries, such as Canada, Colombia, Egypt, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. The level of production in these countries varies from exploration deposits to active artisanal mining and inactive major mines.
A concentrate may contain 10 to 40% Ta2O5, its commercial value is calculated on the tantalum oxide content (which could therefore be as little as one-tenth of the total weight of the material).
The T.I.C. as a trade association is following closely the developments relating to 'coltan'. This is obviously an important and sensitive matter, and the T.I.C., as an industry association, reiterates its commitment to lawful and ethical trade practices.
We have consistently insisted that our members adhere to these principles. The Executive Committee remains of the view that the T.I.C. is not a policing body and that in any event it is not in a position to prohibit or restrict lawful trade of 'coltan' originating in Africa. The T.I.C. continues to monitor legislative developments in this regard.
Further information is available in this document on the sources of 'coltan'.