Tertiary to mine Saudi tantalum

22 February 2002

UK-based Tertiary Mineralshas secured a five-year exploration licence for the world's largest known tantalum deposit, at Ghurrayah in northwest Saudi Arabia. Comprising a granite plug some 900 metres in diameter and 250 metres in depth, the tantalum-rich deposit was originally surveyed by Canadian firm Watts, Griffis & McOuat in the late 1970s. Geological data from the region has only recently been collated by the Saudi Geological Survey.

Inferred mineral resources at the site include some 94,000 tonnes of tantalum pentoxide, worth an estimated $15,000 million at current market prices. Under an agreement signed in early February, Tertiary Minerals has the exclusive right to acquire a 50-year mining lease for the deposit, with the option of extending its initial exploration licence by up to nine years.

Tantalum is a dense metal used in a variety of electronic components. The price of the metal has risen sharply over the last decade in response to growing demand for PCs and mobile phones. Worldwide exploration has been stepped up as a result. Last year Australian consortium Gippslandsecured 50 per cent ownership of a tantalum deposit at Abu Dabbab, on the Red Sea coast of Egypt (MEED 26:10:01).

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