16th June 2017

Scandium (Sc) is a soft, silvery-white metallic element, which with elements such as aluminum, magnesium and zirconium to form high strength metal alloys.

Although a light transition metal, scandium exhibits characteristics similar to rare-earth elements (lanthanides), and is often classified in the REE group, along with yttrium.

During the Cold War, the Russians mined scandium oxide in the Ukraine that was applied to lightweight, high performance AlMgLi-Sc materials used for their advanced MiG-21 and MiG-29 fighter jets.

Current market

Scandium has long been recognised as a valuable commodity, however, concentrated occurrences for economic extraction are extremely rare. Current supply is sourced from low-grade mineral waste stockpiles or as a by-product from other mineral processing operations.

These limited supply sources have resulted in high market prices and inadequate volume for wide-scale adoption. High grade scandium oxide (scandia) is scarce and typically not available in significant commercial quantity. The estimated world supply is 10-15 tonnes per year.

Publicly offered prices range from US$3,000/kg to over US$5,000/kg based on quantity, source, and purity of product, although pricing arrangements such as volumes are not transparent.

The NSW laterite clay belt holds a unique production advantage, with significant high-grade resources, and a single product focus that can quickly bring supply to market at prices that will promote absorption and growth. Key areas of scandium mining are at Nyngan and Honeybugle (Canadian company Scandium International Mining Corp), Fifield (Clean TeQ) and Owendale (Platina Resources).

Potential applications 

Despite scandium’s scarcity, over the past two decades, multiple potential high-value commercial uses for the metal have been developed.

Aviation: depends on advanced Aluminium-Scandium (Al-Sc) alloys

Automotive: aluminium alloys are used to achieve weight reductions and better fuel efficiency. Al-Sc alloys are also used for auto electric vehicles, which carry the additional weight of the battery pack on the chassis.

Sporting goods: Al-Sc alloys are used in bicycles, golf clubs and sporting accessories where strength and lightness are important.

Energy sector: Scandium is used for the Bloom Energy Saver (aka Bloom Box), a solid oxide fuel cell power generator for on-site applications.