Rio Tinto opens new scandium plant in Quebec

Metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, where the new scandium demonstration plant is being built. (Source: Rio Tinto)

Rio Tinto (NYSE: RIO) has started up its new commercial scale demonstration plant to produce high quality scandium oxide. The plant is located at its Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (FTFT) metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec.

The C$6 million project was completed on time and on budget, less than six months after the start of construction. The Quebec government contributed C$650,000 to the project through its development plan for critical and strategic minerals.

The plant uses a new process developed by RTFT to extract high purity scandium oxide from the waste streams of titanium dioxide production. Commissioning is underway and output will ramp up to 3 tonnes of product annually. The future addition of more modules could increase capacity.

“In less than two years, we have gone from testing a process to extract this critical material in a lab to being able to supply approximately 20% of the global market,” said Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium managing director Stéphane Leblanc. “This is a testament to our team’s capacity to think outside the box and deliver on our commitments.”

Scandium oxide has applications in solid oxide fuel cells, lasers, lighting products or as an additive in high performance alloys.

(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)