The Nigeria nation is blessed with abundant mineral resources; fossil fuels and solid minerals. The most popular being the fossil fuels since these constitute the nation’s greatest foreign exchange earner. They have therefore, tended to overshadow the solid mineral sector of mining industry.
The mineral spread in Nigeria is significant with evidence of 34 different minerals distributed in Nigeria’s richly endowed geology. Though not all the mineral occurrences will ultimately have enough reserves to be of viable interest to mining companies, the Nigerian government is leaving no stone unturned in its increasingly sustained efforts to delineate and objectively demonstrate the potential and encourage investments in all.
Columbite, also called niobite, niobite-tantalite and columbate [(Fe, Mn) Nb2O6], is a black mineral group that is an ore of niobium. It has a submetallic luster, high density and is a niobate of iron and manganese.
This mineral group was first found in Haddam, USA. It forms a series with the tantalum-dominant analogue ferrotantalite and one with the manganese-dominant analogue manganocolumbite. The iron-rich member of the columbite group is ferrocolumbite. Some tin and tungsten may be present in the mineral. Yttrocolumbite is the yttrium-rich columbite with the formula (Y,U,Fe)(Nb,Ta)O4. It is a radioactive mineral found in Mozambique.
Columbite has the same composition and crystal symmetry (orthorombic) as tantalite. In fact, the two are often grouped together as a semi-singular mineral series called columbite-tantalite or coltan in many mineral guides. However, tantalite has a much greater specific gravity than columbite, more than 8.0 compared to columbite’s 5.2.
Columbite is also very similar to tapiolite. Those minerals have same chemical composition but different crystal symmetry: orthorhombic for columbite and tetragonal for tapiolite. The largest documented single crystal of columbite consisted of plates 6 millimetres (0.24 in) thick measuring 76 by 61 centimetres (30 × 24 in).
Source of columbite ore used as an alloy of steel to form weldable high speed steel for radio transmitting valves, heat sensitive detective devices called barometer, for jet engines and other aircraft components.
There is no available data on the volume of columbite deposit in Nigeria. They are known to occur in the following states Plateau, Kano, Kaduna, Bauchi, Kogi, Kwara and Nasarawa States.
The electronics industry is by far the largest consumer of tantalum (up to 60%) followed by the telecommunications industry which accounts for approximately 18% of demand units.
The return on investment on the export of columbite ore is estimated between 10%- 15%.
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