As we near the conclusion of our journey “Through the Gateway,” we noticed that one metal has kept popping up in our coverage – Scandium.
A co-product of Tin, we also discussed it in the context of the alloying properties of Gateway Metal Aluminum. It is also a co-product of Nickel.
There is good reason it keeps popping up. For one, while on paper, Scandium resources may in fact be abundant, it is rarely concentrated in nature, making commercially viable deposits extremely rare. Because it is at present largely recovered as a co-product during the processing of various Gateway Metals, including Tin and Nickel, total global production rates are quite low (see our previous post). Scandium may also be present in certain Copper and Rare Earth deposits.
Enter Scandium’s high tech applications – perhaps most importantly Scalmalloy, the state-of-the-art lightweight aluminum alloy powder with almost the strength of titanium, which perfectly illustrates the ongoing revolution in materials science.
In light of these and other relevant high-tech applications for Scandium, some expect demand to soar as high as by 800% over the next decade. Unsurprisingly, several mining companies – most recently in Russia and Australia – have thrown their hats into the ring, and are looking to go into the business of primary Scandium recovery. In the U.S., which is currently 100% import dependent to meet our domestic Scandium needs and has to rely on Kazakhstan, and Russia, developers of multi-metallic deposits are also studying the inclusion of scandium recovery into their project plans.
A key challenge – as we have frequently lamented - lies in the fact that resource development cannot happen overnight, especially in a regulatory environment that does not encourage the harnessing of our domestic resource potential.
How the new projects coming online will affect supply and demand remains to be seen, particularly as the materials science revolution continues to yield new research breakthroughs and applications for tech metals. However, the bottom line is – if Scandium is not yet on your radar, it needs to be.
As we previously pointed out:
[T]he question is whether U.S. scandium dependency will deepen — or whether U.S. policymakers will understand that resource development policy is key to American innovators’ access to another critical metal.