Diversified miner Rio Tinto has produced its first batch of high purity scandium oxide at its North American operations.Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (RTFT) produced the high purity scandium oxide at its commercial scale demonstration plant in Sorel-Tracy, following the completion of commissioning activities. The company is now focusing on production ramp-up to bring the plant to its nameplate capacity of 3 t/y of scandium oxide, representing approximately 20% of the global market.
The plant uses an innovative process developed by RTFT to extract high purity scandium oxide from the waste streams of titanium dioxide production, without the need for any additional mining.
The company is also considering near-term expansion options to increase production capacity in line with market demand.
“We are very proud of this first production of scandium oxide. This is a key milestone in the development of a secure supply of scandium, demonstrating our ability to derisk the global supply chain for this critical mineral,” Rio iron and titanium MD Stéphane Leblanc said.
“With this breakthrough process creating value from waste, RTFT’s ambition is to become a key supplier in the global scandium market. I want to congratulate our employees who brought this project from the drawing board to commercial demonstration in less than two years.
Scandium oxide is used to improve the performance of solid oxide fuel cells, which are used as a power source for data centres and hospitals, as well as in niche products such as lasers and lighting for stadiums or studios. It is also used to produce high-performance aluminium-scandium alloys for the aerospace, defence and three-dimensional printing industries.