Rio Tinto has reported that its Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (RTFT) metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, Québec, Canada, has produced its first batch of high-purity scandium oxide. The company is now reported as the first North American producer of this mineral, used to produce aluminium-scandium alloys, for the Additive Manufacturing sector, as well as being critical in improving the performance of solid oxide fuel cells.
The RTFT team has completed commissioning activities and is now focusing on production ramp up to bring the plant to three tonnes of scandium oxide per year (approximately 20% of the global market). 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,” stated Stéphane Leblanc, Managing Director, Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium. “This is a key milestone in the development of a secure supply of scandium, demonstrating our ability to de-risk the global supply chain for this critical mineral.”
To produce this result, a process developed by RTFT was used to extract high-purity scandium oxide from the waste streams of titanium dioxide production, without the need for any additional mining.
“With this breakthrough process creating value from waste, Rio Tinto Fer et Titane’s ambition is to become a key supplier in the global scandium market,” Leblanc continued. “I want to congratulate our employees who brought this project from the drawing board to commercial demonstration in less than two years.”