Sorel Tracy | Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium: Did you say scandium?

Recently, China and Russia no longer have a monopoly on scandals. Rio Tinto Fer et Titane is now competing with them from the Sorel Tracy factory. An overview of this rare mineral and its importance.

Posted yesterday at 11:00 AM.

Emily Laberrier

Emily Laberrier
special cooperation

Does scandium mean anything to you? It is a silvery-white metallic element that falls into the category of rare earths. The metal is used in an alloy of aluminum to largely solve two problems of the gray metal: its mechanical resistance and its heat resistance. Thus aluminum becomes more and more interesting for aviation, the military sector, 3D printing or communications.

Photo provided by Rio Tinto Fair It Titan

Scandium oxide

Scandium can also be sold in its pure form. “It has many applications, such as lighting or lasers for stadiums or studios,” confirms the plant’s department head, Frederic Benoit. “It is mainly used in the manufacture of solid oxide fuel cells, which are used, among other things, as a power source for data centers and hospitals.”

green process

Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (RTFT) has already been built in Sorel Tracy. The company converts ilmenite ore there into titanium and iron. “We realized in 2015 that ilmenite contained scandium, which was collected in the tailings,” says Frederic Benoit.

So the company has developed a process that allows scandium to be extracted as part of the current production process. In addition to creating value from waste, this way of doing things does not result in emissions to the atmosphere. “We are extracting scandium without polluting any more. It could even become a carbon-neutral process or energy recovery in the future,” the COO confirms.

Photo provided by Rio Tinto Fair It Titan

Scandium Factory Team. From left to right: William Laflame, Guy Goudreau (RTFT Managing Director), Natalie St. Louis, Benoit Laflamme, Natalie Yale, Frederic Benoit (Division Head), Yannick Massey and Evan Kerouac.

Scandium plant opened in June 2021. “We have just produced the first batch of high purity scandium oxide. We are now going to break the factory and gain efficiency. We would also like to learn about future development facilities,” said Frederic Benoit. At the moment, there are seven workers busy at Sorrell Tracy. Other appointments will follow.

This technology was developed and tested at Sorel-Tracy by researchers from RTFT’s Center for Critical Metals Technology.

The ore comes from Quebec, the technology too. Scandium is processed here, and the alloy is made in Quebec. This is really an important conservation project.

Frederic Benoit, Head of Division, Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium

Scandium oxide represents a relatively small market of 12 tons per year. According to Frederic Benoit, it is the show above all that has limited its development so far.

“Those who need scandium have a hard time sourcing from China and Russia because of the size, but also the geopolitical situation. North American consumers don’t really like to rely on these countries for a metal like this,” notes Frederic Benoit.

However, the division chief feels that the market can grow with the arrival of this domestic product, a first in North America. Rio Tinto Fer et Titane is already working on the second phase, which will increase the production capacity of its plant. “The response is very positive. The investment decision should be made by the end of the year.”

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