Rio Tinto starts production of scandium oxide in Canada

Rio Tinto starts production of scandium oxide in Canada

Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (RTFT) has produced the first batch of high purity scandium oxide at its commercial-scale demonstration plant in Sorel-Tracy, becoming the first North American producer of the critical material.

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Scandium is mostly used in 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 3D printing industries. 

RTFT operates an open cast ilmenite mine at Lac Tio near Havre-Saint-Pierre, on Quebec’s North Shore. The ore is used to produce high-quality titanium dioxide feedstock, pig iron, steel, and metal at RTFT’s metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec.  Rio’s plant uses a novel 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. 

Rio has completed commissioning activities and is now focusing on production ramp up to bring the plant to its nameplate capacity of 3tpy of scandium oxide, representing approximately 20% of the global market.  Canada now joins China, Japan, and Russia in the top-four producers of scandium globally.  The critical material is always produced as a by-product, with output in China based on REE, and titanium/zirconium wastes; production in Japan from nickel laterite (from the Philippines) processing; and Russian material from alumina waste.  Rio is reportedly considering near-term expansion options to increase production capacity in line with market demand.  This could make the company, and Canada, the world’s largest producer.

  • 11 May 2022
  • Canada
  • Rio Tinto
  • Scandium

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