Mining group Rio Tinto has commenced operations at its new commercial scale demonstration plant for scandium oxide at its Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (RTFT) metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, QC after six months of construction.
The asset uses a process developed by RTFT to extract high-purity scandium oxide from the waste generated during manufacturing of titanium oxide, the company said in a recent release.
“For the first time, customers will benefit from a North American supply of scandium oxide for applications in solid oxide fuel cells, lasers, lighting products, or as an additive to produce high-performance alloys,” Stéphane Leblanc, managing director of Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium, said in a statement. “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. This is a testament to our team’s capacity to think outside the box and deliver on our commitments.”
Six workers were hired to staff the plant. Rio Tinto launched commissioning work to increasr the plant’s capacity to 3 tn/yr of scandium oxide. The company said it may open more production modules based on market demand.
“I am pleased to see this major critical and strategic minerals project come to fruition in Quebec. It will help strengthen the security of our supply and add value to our industrial waste from the mining sector,” said Quebec Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Jonatan Julien in the release. “It is also consistent with the government’s vision of creating wealth in a greener economy. I wish Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium and the team at this new plant every success!”
The Government of Quebec provided $650,000 through the Quebec Plan for the Development of Critical and Strategic Minerals to support the project.
RTFT’s facility in Sorel-Tracy produces titanium dioxide feedstock, pig iron, steel, and metal.