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Rosatom decides to invest in associated recovery of scandium at JSC Dalur
It has been known for quite a long time that scandium is available within uranium deposits developed by downhole in-situ leaching method in the Kurgan Region. “At the first stage, we had to understand the volumes and, respectively, to answer the main question — to what extent is associated recovery of the rare earth metal economically feasible? During the course of laboratory studies in 2014, industrial contents of scandium were proved in our productive solutions. It means that this metal may be recovered together with uranium in sufficient volumes,” Nikolay Poponin, JSC Dalur Director General, explains.
Most importantly, it is the availability of almost entire industrial chain that proves economic feasibility of the project. Scandium is extracted from subsurface together with uranium by the same technology. According to plans, production of rough scandium concentrate requires that a small-scale workshop interconnected with the uranium enterprise’s main industrial building be constructed.
JSC VNIPIpromtechnologii, an engineering centre of ARMZ Uranium Holding Co., has joined the project thus far. Laboratory studies on selection of chemical and sorbing agents for recovery of scandium from productive solutions have already been conducted. “Our task is to develop an optimum technology for associated recovery of the rare earth metal from productive solutions. Essentially, it is very similar to the uranium extraction process with addition of a multistage extraction process for removing radionuclides from rough concentrate. I believe that this task will have been resolved by end of 2015,” Aleksey Starodumov, JSC VNIPIpromtechnologii Director General, notes.
In 2016, it is expected to proceed to pilot industrial development — designing and installation of appropriate equipment on industrial site. Annual extraction volume of scandium in the Kurgan Region may equal up to 1.5 tons. This is quite a sufficient volume — its market price may amount to approximately 100 million rubles. Likewise uranium, rough scandium concentrate is expected to be handed over to enterprises of JSC TVEL, a part of Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation, for the use in the nuclear industry.