Rare earth breakthrough for scandium supply
Europe’s largest metals business has successfully demonstrated the recovery of scandium rare earth metals from bauxite residue in industrial waste in an EU pilot scheme.
The SCALE pilot was set up by the Mytilineos Metallurgy Business Unit, the largest vertically integrated aluminium and alumina plant in the European Union through its subsidiary Aluminium of Greece, as part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 R&D programme.
Scadium is the most expensive rare earth metal and used in energy-efficient applications in aerospace, transportation, green energy, and additive manufacturing.
The bauxite residue processing was combined with II-VI’s patented selective ion recovery (SIR) technology.
“This demonstration marks the achievement of another milestone in the validation of our unique SIR process in an industrial environment,” said Steve Rummel, Senior Vice President, Engineered Materials and Laser Optics at II-VI. “We partnered and worked closely with Mytilineos to install and commission our SIR pilot plant at their aluminium refinery, demonstrating an optimized and commercially viable process for extracting scandium from bauxite residues. II-VI is also actively developing the downstream products and applications for scandium-containing alloys. Securing a steady supply of this important element will be a critical step.”
“High scandium extraction efficiency has been achieved with minimal reagent consumption, while substantially reducing the sizing requirements for downstream purification steps; this presents a pragmatic approach to the recovery of scandium from bauxite residues for the first time,” said Dr. Efthymios Balomenos, Engineer at the Research & Sustainable Development department of MYTILINEOS’ Metallurgy Business Unit and coordinator of the SCALE project.
“Bauxite residue represents an untapped source of critical rare-earth elements, so vital for today’s advanced technologies driving so many industries. We are excited about this achievement, which we strongly believe has the potential to pave the way for significant economic and environmental benefits and could be a model for the rare-earth industry,” he said.
Scandium is present in most of the deposits of rare-earth and uranium compounds, but it is extracted from these ores in only a few mines worldwide and the supply is limited due its scarcity and the high cost of its production, which currently takes place in Asia and Russia.
Europe has no production of Scandium, but is home to many Scandium end-users and to industries having Scandium in their industrial residues. By converting waste into resources and thus developing a stable and secure EU scandium supply chain to serve the needs of EU aerospace and high tech industry, SCALE project will contribute to reduce dependency on imports of raw materials.
Mytilineos has a consolidated turnover of €1.9 billion and employs directly or indirectly more than 3,850 people in Greece and abroad.
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