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.
Therefore, it is not a scientific name for a certain element, but for an undefined combination of minerals. That is, sometimes there is a higher percentage of one mineral than the other.
The columbite (COL) is a mineral containing niobium dioxide, iron and magnesium (Fe, Mn) and the tantalite (TAN), it is made of tantalum oxide, iron and magnesium (Fe, Mn).
Those oxides that make up the coltan are the ones that 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 it may be that there is more of one or the other. However, it is still coltan, since this mineral is the result of their union.
It should be noted that from the mixture of columbite and tantalia, niobium and tantalum are extracted, elements highly used in the development of modern electronics.
The reason why coltan is characterized by being a solid, dark-colored mineral, which is rare in nature , is due to the union of columbite and tantalia.
Coltan is highly requested, exploited in mines and marketed for its great utility in the development of electronic devices, especially the latest generation, such as Smartphone .
Coltan is a fairly rare mineral. Few countries have this mineral and exploit it. For this reason, a diversity of geopolitical conflicts and confrontations have even been generated, 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 has the largest reserve yet 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 nil. Among these countries are Russia, Afghanistan, Uganda, Egypt, South Arabia, Colombia and Venezuela.
However, beyond the qualities and usefulness of coltan, unfortunately the method of extracting this mineral generates great damage to the ecosystem .
The soil is excavated making large holes, then they wet the earth with large amounts of water and the mud that forms passes through a tube. The ore, being weighed, remains at the bottom of the mud and is then removed.
However, in the Congo, the extraction of coltan has generated major ecological, deforestation and human health problems. They are destroying protected areas where endangered animals 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 to extract said mineral.
The Congo is experiencing a difficult political situation due to the illegal extraction and marketing of coltan smuggling networks. It is a major problem that negatively affects everything that the production of this mineral implies.
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 high conductivity, its capacitive character to store and release electricity, as well as being highly refractory and resistant to corrosion .
This mineral is widely used in the telecommunications industry, for having niobium and tantalum, for the manufacture of mobile phones such as smartphones , 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 surgical implants, capacitors and weapons.
On the other hand, coltan is very useful to form the steel alloy in pipelines , as well as in the manufacture of batteries, hence the batteries of mobile phones are smaller in size and more durable than older ones.