The metals sector in Nigeria today is yet to reach its full potential particularly in the development and consumption of key metallic products as iron, tantalite, copper, aluminium, tin, lead, zinc etc. and in exploitation of key noble metals such as gold and silver. With the nation's capacity, potential and resource base, all these products can readily be developed and used to jumpstart the rapid industrialization and economic growth of the economy.
Tantalite forms a series with the mineral columbite. In fact the two are often grouped together as a semi-singular mineral call columbite-tantalite in many mineral guides. They are used in the production of tantalum based capacitors and alloys for strength and higher melting point, in glass to increase the index of refraction and in surgical steel as it is non – reactive and non-irritating to body tissue. Tantalite’s greatest difference from columbite is it’s much greater specific gravity 8.0+ compared to columbite’s 5.2. We find large deposits of our Tantalite in Nasarawa, Gombe and Kogi States as well as the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja, FCT). The deposits are both alluvial and primary in the numerous pegmatite bodies that infest these areas.
Tantalite has a series of its own. The iron and manganese amounts vary considerably without much effect on properties. However the two end members are recognized as distinct minerals although collectors have found this to be rather cumbersome and generally prefer tantalite to the non-unique names of ferrotantalite and manganotantalite.
Tantalite has a dimorphic relationship to another mineral called tapiolite. A dimorph is a mineral that has the same chemistry but a different structure. Tapiolite has a tetragonal structure as opposed to the orthorhombic structure of tantalite although it has exactly the same chemistry, (Fe, Mn)(Ta, Nb)2O6.
As mineral specimens, tantalite can be a nice addition to one's collection. Good crystals are both complex and handsome. Although the color selection is usually limited too black to brown the luster is generally good. Manganese rich tantalites can be brown and translucent.
- Color is dark black, iron-black to dark brown or even reddish brown.
- Luster is submetallic to almost resinous.
- Transparency: Crystals are nearly opaque being transparent in thin splinters.
- Crystal System is orthorhombic; 2/m 2/m 2/m
- Crystal Habits include stubby prismatic crystals with complexly faceted or rounded terminations. Also very flat tabular crystals sometimes aggregated together in parallel or nearly parallel groups. Can also be granular and massive.
- Cleavage is good in one direction.
- Fracture is subconchoidal.
- Hardness is 6 - 6.5
- Specific Gravity is approximately 8.0+ when pure (very heavy for non-metallic minerals).
- Streak is brownish-red to black.
- Other Characteristics: Some specimens may show a bluish iridescent tarnish and demonstrate weak magnetism.
- Associated Minerals include albite, spodumene, cassiterite, microcline, lepidolite, apatite, beryl, microlite, tourmalines and amblygonite.