Russia aims to increase scandium production
The Russian government plans to significantly increase the volume of scandium production in the country during the next several years, which should help to meet the ever growing demand for the metal from the Russian high-tech industries.
Implementation of these plans is expected to take place through the development of some local uranium fields, which are characterized by high scandium content.
As part of these plans, Russian nuclear monopoly Rosatom plans to establish the production of scandium in Russia at the Dalmatovskoye and Khokhlovskoye uranium fields of the Transural uranium ore district in the Kurgan region of the country.
It is planned that the project will be implemented by Rosatom’s JSC Dalur subsidiary, which, in turn, is part of ARMZ Uranium Holding Co, one of Russia’s largest uranium mining companies.
Laboratory studies, conducted in 2014, confirmed high industrial scandium content in product solutions of the Kurgan uranium fields. According to Nicholas Poponin, director general of Dalur, the company plans to produce scandium together with uranium in sufficient industrial volumes.
The project involves the production of crude scandium concentrate, that will take place at the capacities of a special production shop, that will be built later this year.
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The project also involves the design of a technology for simultaneous extraction of scandium from the product solution.
At the initial stage the annual output of scandium production in the Kurgan region will amount to 1.5 tonnes, with a possibility of a significant increase during the next several years. It is planned that the majority of future production will be supplied for the needs of the Russian nuclear industry.
It is planned that the production of scandium at the Kurgan uranium fields will take place with the use of a special technology of the decontamination of radionuclides, without affecting useful elements during the production of REE, which was recently designed by scientists of the Russian Seversk Technological Institute.
The technology involves the use of new ion-exchange resins and solid extractants, and the method of their application during the process of REE decontamination. The designed technology is universal and can be used during alkaline or acidic REE processing.
The production of scandium in Russia for the first time took place during the Soviet times, when the state resolution, dated of 1960 and which is known as «On the development of the Soviet scandium production» was adopted by Council of Ministers of the USSR.
During the period of 1960-1970 the annual volume of scandium production in the USSR amounted to 7 tonnes per year and more than 10 tonnes during the 1980s. This made the USSR the world’s largest scandium producer.
According to initial plans of the Soviet government, the annual volume of scandium production in the USSR should have been reached 50 tonnes a year by the beginning of the 2000s.
However the collapse of the USSR during 1991 resulted in a significant decline of scandium production in Russia, while the excessive demand for the metal in Russia in the early 1990s caused by the desire of Russian banks and some companies to use it as a currency during the times of economic uncertainty in Russia.
It is planned that the Kurgan uranium fields, whose resource base is estimated at 18.800 tonnes of uranium, will not be the only Russian region, where the production of scandium will be established. As part of the state plans is the establishment of scandium production at Gusevogorskoye and Kachkanarskoye iron-ore deposits, which are located in the Ekaterinburg region of Russia, as well as Big Seyim and Kuranakh deposits in the Amur regions. It is planned that the projects will be implemented with the participation of foreign investors, while their details are currently not disclosed.
Eugene Gerden is an international free-lance writer, based in St. Petersburg, who specializes on writing in the field of mining, metals and rare earth metals. ... <Read more about Eugene Gerden>