The term ‘conflict mineral’ is defined as a mineral that may be mined in an area of armed conflict and traded illicitly to finance the fighting. Materials that are used in the Powder Metallurgy industry, in applications from cutting tools to superalloys and beyond, can be found in these locations and for tungsten, tantalum and tin, some of the world’s largest deposits of ore are in very hostile nations.
Conflict minerals are used in everyday products, ranging from jewellery, cars and smartphones. The battery cathode materials powering electric vehicles (EVs) are layered crystals of lithium metal oxides. Cobalt, another conflict material, is key to boosting energy density and battery life due to the fact it keeps the layered structure stable. Beyond EVs, cobalt can also be used in applications such as the production of superalloy parts for aero engines.
In recent years, corporate and consumer concerns regarding the sourcing of conflict materials have led many leading producers to take a public stance on the avoidance of conflict minerals. There is a concern, however, that in some cases these measures do not always go far enough.
In the Summer 2021 issue of Powder Metallurgy Review (Vol. 10 No. 2), Dr Keith Lloyd Jones, Red Dragon Consulting shines a light on the issues at play and the progress being made toward new solutions.
This article, along with the full magazine, is available to read in full online using the embedded browser above or downloaded as a PDF.