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Rio Tinto opens new scandium plant in Canada

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(Kitco News) - Rio Tinto announced Thursday that it has started operations at a new commercial scale demonstration plant to produce high-quality scandium oxide at its Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (RTFT) metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec.

The company said that the $6 million project, in which the Government of Quebec contributed approximately $650,000 through the Quebec Plan for the Development of Critical and Strategic Minerals, was completed on time and on budget, less than six months after the start of construction.

Six employees have been hired to operate the plant, which 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.

Commissioning work is now being undertaken as production ramps up to a capacity of three tonnes of scandium oxide per year. RTFT is already considering the potential for further investments to add additional modules in line with market demand.

Rio Tinto added that 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.

This project is part of a series of innovations supported by Rio Tinto’s Critical Minerals and Technology Centre in the field of critical minerals and materials, including the recent launch of a water atomized steel powder for 3-D printing applications.

RTFT operates an open cast ilmenite mine at Lac Tio near Havre-Saint-Pierre, on Quebec’s North Shore. The ore is used to produce high-quality titanium dioxide feedstock, pig iron, steel and metal at RTFT’s metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec. Together, the sites employ over 1,600 people.

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