Consumption of tantalum reached an all-time peak in 2008, before the global economic downturn caused demand for the metal to fall sharply in all end-use markets in 2009. Roskill estimates total demand to have fallen by nearly 40% from the 2008 level. A strong recovery was seen in 2010, with demand returning to a level approaching the peak. The market eased in 2011 and will probably weaken further in 2012 before returning to a growth trend and recovering fully by mid-decade. Roskill does not discount the potential for another large fall in demand for tantalum in 2012 and 2013, however.
Market prices for tantalum showed few dramatic movements during most of the last decade and in mid-2009 were at about US$35/lb Ta2O5. By that time, Talison (now GAM) had already suspended production because it had been unable to negotiate a necessary large increase in its contract prices owing to the downturn in demand, significant downstream inventories and the continuing availability of low cost tantalum from Central Africa. Recovery in demand in 2010 saw tantalum market prices rise rapidly to a level at which GAM was able to attract a contract price sufficiently high to enable a return to production in 2011. Contract prices have since slipped and GAM has halted production at its Wodgina mine, although it continues to process tantalum concentrates from elsewhere.
Tantalum demand, 2005 to 2011 (t Ta)