Tantalum (Ta) is a refractory, acid resistant, ductile and easily fabricated metal with a high melting temperature (2,996° Celsius). It is a good conductor of heat and electricity. Tantalum combines readily with other refractory metals, such as tungsten, to form alloys with high-temperature strength and stability.
The major use of metallic tantalum is in the manufacture of electronic components, mainly tantalum capacitors. Because of their long shelf life and reliability, these capacitors are used in computers, communication systems, and controls and instruments for aircraft, missiles, ships, and weapon systems. Tantalum is combined with cobalt, iron, and nickel in super-alloys for aerospace structures and jet engine parts. Tantalum is also combined with carbon as tantalum carbide and with other metals to use as metal-cutting tools, wear-resistant parts, and for boring tools.
Tantalum and niobium are chemically similar and are often present in similar geologic environments. Niobium may be 10 to 20 times more abundant than tantalum. The principal ore minerals are ferrotantalite (Fe2+ Ta2O6) and microlite-pyrochlore ((Ca,Na)2Ta2O6(O,OH,F)-(Ca,Na)2Nb2O6(OH,F)). Struverite ((Ti,Ta,Fe3+)3O6), which is recovered from tin-mining wastes, is another source.
There is potential for tantalum resources in Arkansas because niobium is present in the Cretaceous igneous rocks. Although no evaluation or mining of tantalum in Arkansas has occurred, the recovery of this metal, along with niobium, would probably be as a byproduct of the mining of titanium-bearing minerals.
Image courtesy of Jurii from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tantalum.jpg