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Definition: coltan


(COLumbite-TANtalite) A metallic ore that is critical in electronics manufacturing. A black-brown substance, niobium is extracted from the columbite for metal alloys such as stainless steel. Due to its superconducting properties, niobium is also used in particle accelerators and MRI scanners. Tantalum is extracted from the tantalite and is used as an insulator in capacitors. It is also used for neon light electrodes and rectifiers. See tantalum capacitor.

A major source of income for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the country is considered to have the world's largest coltan reserves. Coltan mining revenue financed wars in the 1970s and 1990s.