The weakness in Chinese imports of tantalum-niobium concentrates has extended well into the second quarter on a year on year basis. Data available for the first five months of 2012 shows imports down over nine percent.

All of the main nations from which China purchases the metal have experienced double-digit declines in the values of metal sold during this period. Rwanda is the biggest loser. Chinese import tonnage and the value of imports from Rwanda have both fallen more than 60 percent. Tantalum imported by China from the US rose by about 67 percent, though the value was still down 13 percent. China’s average import prices during the first five months were down over 26 percent, averaging $18,110 per ton.

However, it should be noted that Chinese imports were significantly higher in April and May when compared to levels seen in the first quarter. May data shows imports up about 43 percent and import values down less than 1 percent.

Outside of China, tantalite basis 30% Ta205 prices began to rise in mid-June. Prices that had been in a range of about $98-105 began climbing and remain in the $108-115 range. Tantalum min 99.8% have risen only slightly, with the minimum price moving up $10 to $480, but the high remains where it has been for most of the year, at $530.