Tantalum is a critical metal in high-tech electronics, where it is used in capacitors. The largest producer in 2009 was Australia (half the world output) but tantalum is mined in Congo allegedly by people, including children, who are essentially imprisoned slaves. The US does not import tantalum directly from Congo, but it does import concentrates and refined metal from China, Germany, Mexico, Japan, Estonia, Russia and others—nations that have no primary tantalum mine production but refine imported ores. Blood tantalum from the Congo can enter the United States through these imports. While geochemical fingerprinting of tantalum is possible, this approach is relatively new and not applied with uniformity.
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