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Riding tantalum’s boom-bust cycle

FALLING tantalum prices may have made life difficult for some of the explorers hoping to cash in their finds, but it opens the way for Australia’s three producers to pick up some cheap buys.

While the industry is dominated by Sons of Gwalia, both Haddington International Resources and Australasian Gold Mines have been ambitiously seeking new ground to take advantage of any future upturn in tantalum prices.

Haddington International Resources, listed earlier this year, is the last to move with the purchase of unlisted company Australian Tantalum Ltd and its stable of 11 project areas for $30,000 cash and two million Haddington shares.

Prices for the mineral sand have fluctuated widely. Early in the year prices were reportedly as high as $US350 per pound for 30 per cent concentrate tantalum pentoxide. Today, contract prices are between $US75 and $US80 per pound.

Haddington managing director Colin McCavana said a mining-lease agreement with Sons of Gwalia underpinned the financial stability of the company, making it self sustaining while giving the company the flexibility to seek new opportunities.

Mr McCavana said the company looked set to meet its budgetary costs of $US46 per pound, leaving amPle room for any drop in market prices.

Next year, Haddington hopes to begin development of the Cattlin Creek Project, near Ravensthorpe, which will boost the company’s production to 300,000 tonnes.

Australasian Gold Mines 50 per cent owned subsidiary Tantalum Australia Pty Ltd recently announced the discovery of at least five million pounds at its recently acquired Mt Deans Project, with a potential worth at current prices of $400 million.

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