Rio Tinto has become the first producer in North America of the critical mineral scandium oxide, which it has produced in high purity from its commercial-scale demonstration plant in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec, Canada.
Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (RTFT) recently completed commissioning and will now turn its focus to ramping the plant up to nameplate capacity, 3 tonnes annually. That capacity will make up 20% of the global market.
The facility 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 end uses include solid oxide fuel cells and aluminium alloys.
The company is also considering near-term expansion options to increase production capacity in line with market demand.
Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium Managing Director Stéphane Leblanc said: “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. 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.”
RTFT operates an open cast ilmenite mine at Lac Tio near Havre-Saint-Pierre, on Quebec’s North Shore, for the titanium dioxide feedstock along with pig iron, steel and metal.
Source: Rio Tinto