Resource World Magazine

Resource World - Apr-May 2017 - Vol 15 Iss 3

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Page 60 of 71

A P R I L / M A Y 2 0 1 7 61 MININGWORLD TANTALUM, A RARE, blue-gray, lus- trous transition metal with unique properties, has applications in most high- tech products and is present in almost all of them. Pure tantalum is a soft, shiny, silver metal that is almost immune to chemical attack at temperatures below 150° C. Due to an oxide film on its surface, tantalum is virtually resistant to corrosion. Tantalum is produced from refined coltan (columbite-tantalite). The conven- tional method of processing tantalum bearing ores requires the use of hydro- fluoric acid (HF). AB Minerals Corp. has developed a processing technology that does not use HF. "Minimizing environ- mental impact was an important issue when the plant design was developed," stated Frank Balestra, the company's CEO. "The technology was created to be a more environmentally sustainable solution by reducing energy consumption, mini- mizing waste production and reducing soil, water and air pollution. Coltan pro- cessing has historically been a very costly and energy intensive process. Utilizing this new processing method, created by AB Minerals, results in a significant reduction in energy consumption and cost relative to the present processing method. The com- pany states, "Our processing method was created to address the challenges of oper- ating in most countries that host tantalum bearing ores." Because coltan can be cheaply and eas- ily mined in Africa and Latin America, those regions have met much of the world's demand for this mineral. Unfortunately, it has developed a reputation as a conflict mineral due to the conditions at some mines in the eastern DRC. Because of this, manufacturers today are mandated to acquire tantalum from conflict-free sources as defined under the iTSCi program. The Programme establishes trace- ability in the upstream supply chain from mine to smelter, and downstream companies (product manufacturers etc) and assists companies to establish due diligence through independent audits and risk assessments. It currently has 250 provisional Full and Associate Members spanning 35 countries, and operates at around ~1000 mine sites in Burundi, Rwanda and the DRC, shipping 100's of tonnes of minerals per month, and involving ~80,000 miners, who in turn provide support for ~375,000 dependents. On March 15, 2017, iTSCi reported that, "Newly published data from the iTSCi minerals due diligence program demon- strates effective risk identification and management outcomes for tin, tungsten and tantalum supply from Central Africa. The new figures show how the 3,063 incidents recorded and managed across 1,341 mine sites in four countries by iTSCi from 2011 to 2016 have resulted in 2,081 positive outcomes, as the co-ordinated combination of actions by stakeholders has achieved successful and progressive improvement in the supply chain. Through iTSCi implementation, compa- nies, governments, civil society and iTSCi staff facilitated and followed up on the resolution of risk incidents and achieved important outcomes including: • Traceability verification (24%) • Government accountability and improved performance (15%) • Process improvements in due diligence and systems (15%) • Suspension and controls of mines or com- panies (12%) • Due diligence actions on specific supplies (11%) • Advice and training by iTSCi or others (11%) • Human rights, safety and environmental improvements (7%) • Security improvements by state and pri- vate services (5%) One way to benefit tantalum miners in developing countries is to enable them to deal directly with the smelters, instead of having the ore exported to China and Europe to be refined. AB Minerals plans to "change the current value proposition for countries exporting their minerals at the lowest value, by installing multiple plants worldwide and transforming the minerals into higher value-added products directly in-country." Business practices change when there is a significantly increased value proposition available. In a January 2017 article by Wedaeli Chibelushi, 'Bringing Home the Tantalum' in African Business Review Frank Balestra, CEO, AB Minerals Corp. said, "We expect our processing method will be imple- mented in all countries throughout the world that have adequate tantalite sup- plies. AB Minerals will be the first to bring this processing to Africa. Our process is going to bring change to the market and create value for the countries that have the ore supplies. If the processing costs can be reduced significantly, it will have an overall effect on the pricing of the end products." Watts, Griffis and McOuat Limited, (Canada's longest running independent firm of geological and mining consultants) and its associates, have completed an extensive due diligence review of the proj- ect validating this new technology. AB Minerals says the plants can be installed and operational within eight months. The company is now engaged in serious discussions with Mining Ministers and major financiers from a number of countries in Africa and Latin America regarding implementation of processing plants in their countries. The company's goal is to implement and be operational with plants in at least two countries within the next 12 months. n AB Minerals' greener, cleaner tantalum separation technology by Kathrine Moore

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