Special report: The US government has finalised its list of 35 critical metals and scandium has made the cut.

The news comes soon after MinRex Resources (ASX:MRR) revealed it could have a potential standalone scandium deposit at a NSW nickel, cobalt and scandium project it’s in the process of acquiring.

Scandium is added to aluminium products to make them lighter, stronger, more corrosion-resistant and heat-tolerant.

It is also used in solid oxide fuel cells – a clean, low-pollution technology that can generate electricity at high efficiencies.

The aviation industry in particular is interested in scandium-alloyed aluminium materials because it believes they can reduce aircraft weights by 15 to 20 per cent as well as lower the cost.

A 2002 report undertaken by Jervois Mining (ASX:JRV) and Australian government-backed research agency CSIRO highlighted significant early interest by global aviation giant Boeing in the ability of scandium alloys to mitigate against corrosion for a new aircraft design.

Fast forward to today and the forecast is that demand for scandium is set to grow significantly. Boeing and Airbus will potentially need 150 tonnes a year to make aluminium-scandium alloys to build up to 38,000 new aircraft over the next two decades.

That is at least 10 times the 10 to 15 tonnes of scandium that is currently produced each year, according to US Geological Survey figures.

Scandium, although an abundantly occurring mineral, is produced exclusively as a by-product during the processing of various ores or recovered from previously processed tailings or residues.

In recent years, scandium was produced as by-product material in China (titanium and rare earths), Kazakhstan (uranium), Russia (apatite) and Ukraine (uranium).

Perfect timing

The growing demand is going to require new supply and MinRex recently discovered legacy metallurgical results that show a 70 per cent scandium recovery rate from high-grade samples taken from a prospect known as Houston Mitchell, within the Pacific Express project.

MinRex’s geology team is now evaluating occurrences of scandium-rich material.

This could result in scandium-rich resources being defined separately to the nickel and cobalt occurrences that dominate throughout the tenure.

The geology team have also noticed the scandium is enriched nearer to surface, while the cobalt and nickel mineralisation is deeper within the laterite.

Moving forward

External consultants are thoroughly reviewing all legacy metallurgical data and test-work for the Houston Mitchell prospect and will summarise the key findings.

MinRex says this project knowledge can materially aid fast-tracking future mining studies.

The company is planning to start work on modelling legacy data to determine if a resource can be estimated for scandium, cobalt and nickel and reported to the JORC (2012) code.

JORC refers to the mining industry’s official code for reporting exploration results, mineral resources and ore reserves, managed by the Australasian Joint Ore Reserves Committee.

MinRex then plans to put together preliminary drilling campaigns for the most prospective scandium, cobalt and nickel targets within the Pacific Express project.


This special report is brought to you by MinRex Resources.

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