From charlatan to charlatan: Venezuela has lots of Coltan

October 19, 2009


The charlatanic rage in Venezuela has  a name: Coltan. Ignorance is like that. Show some shiny stones to the indians and they will sell your wife to you in exchange for them. Tell a Government that only believes in magical solutions, that they have the mythical El Dorado or a Rosetta stone and they will believe it. Even worse, they will hold a press conference to talk and tell the world about it.

Call it blue gold, tell the world that without coltan, there are no cell phones or video games. Keep talking, Coltan may save Venezuela, just like Chavez. Except…

The world market for Coltan is only around US$ 2 billion, so no matter how huge the deposits may be, it will pale in comparison with Venezuela’s gold, diamond and oil deposits. Because Australian companies are quitting producing Coltan because the price of Coltan ore is actually low, it is the finished product that is worth something.

Because Coltan is the mineral that contains Niobium (formerly Columbite) and Tantalum, two transition metals that are worth little as metals (They are superconductors, but useless as such). I once visited a coltan mine in Brazil, they were desperate to find an alternate use.

But the only use known for it is to turn it into oxide (A great process, stick a fuse in and the stuff melts under a reaction which is exothermic, i.e. it sustains itself, the stuff melts, you have a spigot and collect it  you get pure Tantalum Oxide or Niobium Oxide)

And the only thing you do with the oxide is make capacitors. We are not talking chips, oscillators, memories, we are talking good old capacitors (condensers if you are older), used in circuits to store charge. Both Tantalum Oxide and Niobium Oxide have high dielectric constants, which allows you to have more capacitance or ability (capacitance!) to store charge since the capacitance of a Capacitor is proportional to that constant.

But you see, companies that produce Coltan ore, or Tantalum Oxide, find electronics to be only a marginal busines and it’s currently a money losing one. So, imagine a money losing business run by Chavistas.

You get the picture.

But by now Chavez is an expert, we are told Coltan is to blame for Congo’s (Zaire, Rwanda?) instability. Coltan is the future of humanity. After the uranium that we are helping the Iranians find, prospect or whatever.

Coltan is like the revolution, but mineral…so, you can sell it.

or something like that.

16 Responses to “From charlatan to charlatan: Venezuela has lots of Coltan”

  1. moctavio Says:

    Well, I worked with Nioium half my life, even visited the world’s largest mines in Brazil about thirty years ago when they were trying t find new applications. To this day the main application is Niobium Oxide as an insulator.

  2. Bill Simpson of Slidell USA Says:

    I think you can use niobium to make high technology rocket nozzles. I am surprised Hugo didn’t mention that in his speech. Although I never heard of the stuff until I read a story on the NASA website about some space probe. They may have even used it on the Moon lander way back in the 1960’s. I saw a video of a nozzle made of niobium glowing red hot in space once. So if Hugo decides to get into space exploration, he can save on niobium imports. I wouldn’t launch any ‘space probes’ toward the Northwest, if I were him.
    You learn this stuff living 19 km from the world’s largest rocket test stands. If anyone has an interest in space, is a great website.

  3. […] once again spewed out the BE about Coltan, which I wrote about earlier. The charlatan now thinks it is worth US$ 100 billion. Well, if it is a money losing proposition, […]

  4. Anónimo Says:

    So far as the Wealth/Poverty fund is concerned, it seems that someone wrote not too long ago that each Venezuelan has a debt of around US$ 10 thousand, always on the increase, by the looks of it.

  5. An Interested Observer Says:

    “imagine a money losing business run by Chavistas”

    That’s redundant, Miguel!

  6. Megaescualidus Says:

    Can a wealth fund have negative funds? If it did, would it be called a “poverty” fund? Would Venezuela’s then be called “Venezuela’s sovereign poverty fund”? It may be an off topic, but it is a good topic to ponder on as the day begins here in California.

  7. John Says:

    I am sorry this is off topic. I read an article in a September issue of the Economist. They wrote that Norway has $400 Billion in her wealth fund. This equals to $85,000 per citizen.

    I wonder if you could do an article about Venezuela’s wealth fund. Would it be negative?

  8. Megaescualidus Says:

    This is, once again, a diversionary tactic to focus attention to anything else other than real problems that any other even half-mediocre government would be working to solve.

    Even if this about the Coltan is true (that they found large deposits, etc.) nothing good will come out of it given that the Iranians are involved.

    “…imagine a money losing business run by Chavistas”: that business, if really undertaken, won’t really last for too long.

  9. Kepler Says:

    Oh, no! This is so sad. I just wrote a post about Amazonas and although I only mentioned the ecological issue “en passant”, I came across a lot of recent articles and emails on the environmental disasters taking place now (nothing new but there are several times more outsiders living in those areas now). If they start with this, even if it will have only limited economic impact (possitively, I mean), I am sure there will be a lot more of destruction in the Guayana basin.
    Thanks for bringing this up, Miguel.

  10. Roger Says:

    The tantalum is used as a dielectric between to conductive plates of aluminum foil or oxide and then sealed in some form of plastic a Petrochemical. All of these are found in Venezuela!

  11. jsb Says:

    Cubans in Miami have “intransigence”, a term I actually find endearing, perhaps the Venezuelan opposition has “capacitance”!

  12. Zumbao Says:

    No coltaban con mi astucia!

  13. Humberto Says:

    Good post Miguel.

  14. un post mio sobre el mismo tema,
    Las Armas de Coronel
    sábado 10 de octubre de 2009
    Hugo Chávez paraliza la exploración del mineral COLTAN
    El COLTAN: es como la kriptonita de los gorilas

    ABN, Agencia Bolibanánica de Noticias.

    **** La producción de ese mineral es nocivo para los gorilas.

    En base a un informe de Alberto Muller Rojas, el experto preferido de la revolución, el hombre fuerte venezolano ha ordenado la paralización de las actividades de exploración de COLTAN, el llamado “mineral milagroso” utilizado en teléfonos celulares y computadoras. La razón que alarmó a Chávez fue que se ha establecido que la producción de ese mineral en el Congo ha amenazado seriamente la sobrevivencia de los gorilas.
    Al enterarse de esto Chávez se aterró y prohibió que se siguiera hablando de esto. Regañó al pobre ministro Sanz por esa nueva indiscreción. “Te voy a botar, estúpido”, le dijo en cadena televisiva.
    Publicado por Gustavo Coronel en 6

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: