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Rio Tinto has found a way to extract Scandium from its titanium dioxide operation in Quebec, Canada. Source: Rio Tinto.

Rio Tinto has commenced construction of a commercial scale scandium demonstration plant at the For et Titane (RTFT) metallurgical complex in Quebec, Canada.

This will make Rio Tinto the first producer of high-quality scandium oxide in North America.

Rio Tinto will invest US$6 million ($7.7 million) in the construction of the plant’s first module, which will produce three tonnes of scandium oxide per year.

Annual production from the first module makes up around 20 per cent of the current global market’s scandium oxide.

RTFT is scheduled to commence commercial supply of scandium oxide in the second quarter of 2021, with the plant designed to add further modules in the future.

Last year, RTFT announced it had developed a method to extract high purity scandium oxide using waste derived from titanium dioxide production.

Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium managing director Stéphane Leblanc said the company would offer the first reliable supply of the commodity.

“We are proud to offer North America’s first reliable supply of scandium oxide using an innovative and sustainable process, with the construction of this new plant,” he said.

“Rio Tinto has been engaged in the exploration and production of rare earths and critical minerals globally for a number of years, to meet the demand in new and emerging technologies.”

Scandium oxide is used to boost solid oxide fuel cell performance, which are used to power data centres, hospitals and lighting for stadiums and studios.

It is also used to produce aluminium-scandium master alloys for the aerospace, defence and 3D printing industries.

The Government of Quebec has provided US$650,000 for the project, with Quebec Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Jonatan Julien said RTFT can become a major scandium supplier outside of China.

“RTFT’s scandium oxide valorization project is a concrete example of how we can extract value from our mining wastes,” he said.

“This business has the potential to become a major scandium supplier outside China.”