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Rio Tinto enters scandium market with Canada plant

15th January 2021

By: Mariaan Webb

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

     

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Diversified major Rio Tinto is set to become North America’s first producer of scandium oxide, with the construction of a commercial scale demonstration plant at its Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (RTFT) metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec.

Rio Tinto is investing $6-million in the construction of a first module of the plant, with an initial capacity to produce three tonnes a year of scandium oxide, or about 20% of the current global market.

The new plant will have the ability to add further modules in line with market demand.

RTFT expects to begin commercial supply of scandium oxide in the second quarter of 2021.

The government of Quebec is contributing about $650 000 to the project through the Quebec Plan for the Development of Critical and Strategic Minerals.

RTFT developed a process it has proven at pilot scale to extract high-purity scandium oxide from the waste streams of titanium dioxide production, without the need for any additional mining at its ilmenite mine in Havre-Saint-Pierre, Quebec.

“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. With the support of Rio Tinto’s aluminium business, we are uniquely positioned to deliver aluminium-scandium master alloys and develop synergies with North America’s manufacturing supply chain,” said Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium managing director Stéphane Leblanc.

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 master alloys for the aerospace, defence and three-dimensional printing industries.

The high-quality scandium oxide and aluminium-scandium master alloy will be commercialised under the business brand name Element North 21.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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