Rio Tinto has begun production of high-quality scandium oxide at a new commercial scale demonstration plant at its Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (RTFT) metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec, Canada. Commissioning work is now being undertaken as production ramps up to a capacity of three tonnes of scandium oxide per year, using a process developed at RTFT that extracts the oxide from waste streams of titanium oxide production, without requiring any additional mining.
The $6 million project, for which the Government of Quebec contributed approximately $650,000 through the Quebec Plan for the Development of Critical and Strategic Minerals, was completed on time and on budget, fewer than six months after construction began. Six employees have been hired to operate the plant.
“For the first time, customers will benefit from a North American supply of scandium oxide for applications in solid oxide fuel cells, lasers, lighting products or as an additive to produce high-performance alloys,” stated Stéphane Leblanc, Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium Managing Director. “In less than two years, we have gone from testing a process to extract this critical material in a lab to being able to supply approximately 20% of the global market. This is a testament to our team’s capacity to think outside the box and deliver on our commitments.”
Jonatan Julien, the province’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, added “I am very pleased to see this major critical and strategic minerals project come to fruition in Québec. It will help strengthen the security of our supply and add value to our industrial waste from the mining sector. It is also consistent with the government’s vision of creating wealth in a greener economy. I wish Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium and the team at this new plant every success!”
The project is part of an ongoing series by Rio Tinto’s Critical Minerals and Technology Centre in the field of critical minerals and materials. Another recent development in this series was the launch of a water atomised steel powder for Additive Manufacturing. Rio Tinto is also well positioned to produce aluminium-scandium alloys; in March, the company announced an agreement to supply this alloy from its North American operations to Australian AM parts and services provider Amaero.