Tantalum and Uranium

August 6th, 2006 by Hugh

There’s a new twist to the story about tantalum, a surprisingly controversial mineral used in capacitors (for background see my previous post, Cruelty-Free Tantalum).

The Sunday Times reports that coltan (columbite-tantalite ore) is being used as a cover to smuggle Uranium from the Congo to Iran via Tanzania. The newspaper quotes a senior Tanzanian source:

There were several containers due to be shipped and they were all routinely scanned with a Geiger counter,” the official said.

“This one was very radioactive. When we opened the container it was full of drums of coltan. Each drum contains about 50kg of ore. When the first and second rows were removed, the ones after that were found to be drums of uranium.”

As you are probably aware, there is widespread concern about Iran’s use of nuclear technology. This latest story will do more to taint the use of Congolese tantalum as being unethical, despite the official end to the civil war in Congo and the recent widely-praised elections. As it happens, I’m told that Exbiblio is avoiding the use of tantalum altogether, which neatly sidesteps the problem.

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