First scandium powder for Metallica
Metallica Minerals has produced what it believes to be Australia’s first ever batch of the sought-after rare earth element scandium oxide from its Brisbane pilot plant. The company says this is a major step towards the development of a new export industry.
According to Metallica, the fine white powder, which currently sells for up to $8,000 per kg, is a key ingredient in solid oxide fuel cells and high-performance aluminium alloys that are used in aerospace and high performance niche sporting goods.
“There is no major producer of scandium in the world today, and customers are looking for long-term reliable supply of the material, something that Metallica believes it can satisfy,” said Metallica managing director Andrew Gillies.
Gillies went on to say that production of Australia’s first kilogram of high purity scandium oxide was a milestone for the Australian resources industry and represents a unique opportunity for Metallica to become a dominant player in a single commodity.
“The results achieved by our metallurgical team are simply astonishing when you consider that this is the very first test run of a newly-developed technology for extracting scandium, all invented and designed here in Brisbane,” he said.
“There is a tremendous first-mover advantage at stake here and with this breakthrough we are well placed to bring a long-term, reliable supply of scandium to market for manufacturers worldwide.”
Metallica’s scandium-nickel-cobalt deposits are located some 250km northwest of Townsville in North Queensland.
The company recently re-named its project SCONI (scandium, cobalt, nickel) from NORNICO to emphasise the scandium component of its production.
Gillies says Metallica is currently engaged in talks with a number of interested potential offtakers for its scandium and is submitting patents on its extraction and refining techniques.
A recently completed scoping study confirmed that SCONI had existing scandium and nickel-cobalt resources that could support a 750,000 tonnes per annum operation over a 20-year operational life. The project would produce scandium, nickel and cobalt using one processing method to extract all three metals.
Metallica chief executive, Gavin Becker, said: “In my 35 years of metallurgical experience, this is one of the most remarkable breakthroughs that I have been involved with.
“In addition to the splendid results, the process is hydrometallurgically based, which makes it relatively straightforward to scale up for commercial development.”