Sumitomo Building Scandium Recovery Plant at Coral Bay
Sumitomo developed technology, en-abling recovery of scandium from the Coral Bay ore at its Niihama Research Laboratories in Ehime Prefecture, Japan. Plans call for a scandium oxide pilot plant to be constructed at Coral Bay by the end of 2013 and for trial production to get underway at a level of 10 kg/month in 2014. Based on the results of test operation of the pilot plant, the company will aim for construction of a scandium oxide production line of commercial scale and launch of related business activity in 2015.
Scandium is silvery-white metal with a density of 2.99. It is used in a variety of applications, including as an additive to enhance the strength, heat resistance and corrosion resistance of aluminum; as an electrolyte used in solid oxide fuel cells; and as an electrode used in metal halide lamps and alkaline batteries. Currently, global production is estimated at 10 mt/y. The major producers are in the United States, Ukraine, Russia and China.
Owing to its modest volume of produc-tion and high cost, demand for scandium to date has been limited, but as supplies stabilize, growth is expected to increase in its main applications.