Junior granted mining lease for primary scandium mine; stock rockets 15%

Scandium is often alloyed with aluminum to reduce aircraft weight. Image from Flickr Commons.

Investors in a small-cap junior focused on the mining of a lesser-known element – scandium – were rewarded on Friday after a favourable decision from the New South Wales government in Australia.

A mining lease was granted by the Minister for Resources of the State of New South Wales last Wednesday, May 3, to a subsidiary of Scandium International Mining Corp. (TSX:SCY), for the company’s Nyngan Scandium Project, located about 500 kilometres northwest of Sydney. The lease effectively means that Scandium can move forward with building the mine. Environmental consent from the NSW government was given in November 2016.

Investor reaction in Toronto was swift. Following a news release on Friday, shares in Reno-based Scandium closed at 42 cents a share – up 15.07% from the previous trading session.

“This Mining Lease grant is a major milestone in the Company’s development of the Nyngan Scandium Project. It signals the full support of state government, regulators, and the community for our endeavor, and is validation of the level and quality of work that has been committed to date. We couldn’t be more pleased with this show of support and encouragement from NSW regulators to move forward and build Nyngan into the world’s first primary scandium mine, and to do so in NSW, Australia,” said Scandium International CEO George Putnam, in a statement.

Scandium is a soft, silvery metallic element with the symbol Sc. While it is often classified among the 17 rare earth elements (REEs), scandium is not particularly rare – occurring in greater abundance than lead, mercury and precious metals. However, the element is not commonly found in concentrations over 100 parts per million, meaning that currently there are no scandium-only mines. Scandium International says it is estimated that only 15 tonnes of scandium are produced globally ever year. Prices range from $3500 to $5000 per kilogram depending on the quality.

Scandium is primarily used as an aluminum alloy, producing aluminum products that are more corrosion and heat-resistant. The use of scandium-aluminum alloys can reduce aircraft weights by 15 to 20%. The element is also a good conductor for heat and electricity, hence its use in solid oxide fuel cells, used for example in auxiliary power units in vehicles and stationary power generation.

The Nyngan Scandium Project, 80%-owned by SCY and 20% by Scandium Investments LLC, was originally explored for gold, tin and platinum group metals. But it wasn’t until 2010 that Scandium and Jervois Mining Limited, of Melbourne, agreed to develop the property into a scandium-only project. In 2014 Scandium took on a US$2.5 million loan and purchased the project from Jervois Mining.

The granting of the mining lease triggered an option for its minority partner to convert their 20% interest into SCY common shares, an offer that expires mid-June.

According to a May 2016 definitive feasibility study (DFS), the project has the potential to produce an average of 37,690 kilograms of scandium oxide per year, at grades of 98.0%-99.9%, for a 20-year minelife. The open-pit mine is expected to cost $87.1 million to build, with a payback of 3.3 years, according to the DFS.

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