Russia launches production of high-purity scandium
Ural Aluminium Plant, one of Russia’s largest aluminium producers, which is part of Rusal, plans to start massive production of scandium oxide with a purity of more than 99% this year, according to the company.
According to plans of the company, at the initial stage the volume of production may reach 96 kg of scandium oxide per year, with a possibility of a significant increase during the next several years.
The company plans to use carbonizing technology of scandium extraction from the red mud. The volume of investments in the project at the initial stage will reach US$20 million.
In the medium term, Rusal plans to increase its capacities for scandium production, depending on the market needs, that will take place on the basis of the company’s own raw materials’ base.
The cost of the product, that will be extracted from scandium concentrate, according to estimates of the Ural Plant, will reach US$2,000 per kilogram.
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Viktor Mann, technical director of Rusal, said the company expects high demand for its product both in the domestic and global markets.
In the case of global market, according to Mann, at present global consumption of scandium oxide is estimated at 10 – 15 tons per year and is predicted to grow in the next decade.
The company informed that scandium oxide will be used for the production of aluminum-scandium alloys for the domestic and foreign plants of Rusal. According to Rusal, the use of scandium as a microalloying impurity significantly improves consumer properties of aluminum alloys.
The new project has already welcomed by the analysts of the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade, a state agency, that will be responsible for the implementation of the project. According to a spokesman of Denis Manturov, Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade, to date, the majority of Russia’s scandium needs has been met by imports, however there is a possibility that such a situation will be changed already by the end of the current year.
The current capacity of the Russian scandium market both in volume and value terms is not disclosed by the Russian government, as the metal is in the list of metals, which has strategic importance for the Russian national security.
In the case of the domestic needs, it is planned that the majority of scandium, that will be produced by the Ural Aluminium Plant, will be supplied for the needs of the Russian defence industry, the demand for the metal from which has significantly increased in recent years.
Since 2014 the Russian military and defence industry has become the largest consumer of scandium in Russia and, according to some sources close to the Russian Ministry of Defence, the annual needs of the industry are constantly growing. For example, a significant part of scandium production in Russia is currently used in the production of the 5th generation fighter, as well as the design of its modernized version. In addition, there is also the ever growing scandium demand from some leading Russian research institutions and design bureaus, which are involved in the production of combat equipment for the needs of the Russian land forces.
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>