Coltan is an essential raw material for the microelectronics, telecommunications, aerospace and biomedical industries. Although it may appear to be just one mineral , coltan is the combination of two, columbite and tantalite. In fact, the term itself “coltan” comes from the fusion of the two words. Basically, it is a mineral which is concentrated in the Republic of Congo, where 80 % of the reserves are found. In Europe there is only one mine where this material is extracted: A Penouta, an old tin mine located in Orense (Spain).
After being one of the most important tin deposits in Europe in the 1970s, it was finally closed down in the 1980s. From then until now, February 2020, the mine remained inactive. That was when Strategic Minerals Spain decided to buy the site for 36 million euros. In fact, the Ourense mine is still warming up: at the end of April it remained at 60-70% of its capacity.
Apart from being the only coltan mine in Europe, it has the advantage of being classified as conflict-free, which guarantees that human and workers’ rights are respected when extracting this material. A label that cannot be applied to the mines in Congo due to the numerous armed conflicts generated on account of these mines in the African country.
Another great value point of A Penouta for those responsible for Strategic Minerals: the work in the mine follows a circular economy scheme that returns wealth to the environment. Of the fifty or so employees currently working at the Ourense mine, around 80% are residents of Viana do Bolo or the surrounding area.
For the time being, Strategic Minerals Spain expects to be able to extract all the coltan in fourteen years. However its intention is to stay in Penouta for three more years after completing the work to restore the environment of this small Galician village. The investment needed to extract this mineral from the interior of the Galician mountains will be 350 million euros.