Scandium is a rare transition metal that is used mainly in aluminium alloys. It is found in the minerals euxenite, kolbeckite, gadolinite, and thortveitite.
Domestic Production and Use: Demand for scandium decreased slightly in 2010. Domestically, scandium-bearing minerals have not been mined nor recovered from tailings since 1990. However, quantities sufficient to meet demand were available in domestic tailings. Principal sources were imports from China, Russia, and Ukraine. Domestic companies with scandium-processing capabilities were in Mead, CO, and Urbana, IL. Capacity to produce ingot and distilled scandium metal was in Ames, IA; Phoenix, AZ; and Urbana, IL. Scandium used in the United States was essentially derived from foreign sources. Principal uses for scandium in 2010 were aluminum alloys for sporting equipment (baseball and softball bats, bicycle frames, crosse handles (lacrosse stick handles), golf clubs, gun frames, and tent poles), metallurgical research, high-intensity metal halide lamps, analytical standards, electronics, oil well tracers, and lasers.
Events, Trends, and Issues: Nominal prices for domestically produced scandium oxide remained unchanged for all purities while other scandium compounds increased slightly from those of the previous year. The supply of domestic and foreign scandium remained stable. Prices increased slightly in 2010, and the total market remained very small. Domestic decreases in scandium demand were primarily related to recently developed applications in carbon fiber and carbon nanotube technology for baseball and softball bats; however, scandium-aluminum baseball and softball bats remained popular high-end sports equipment, and sports equipment remained the leading use of scandium. New demand is expected to come from future fuel-cell markets and aerospace applications.
Scandiumís use in metal halide lighting continued. Scandium, as the metal or the iodide, mixed with other elements, was added to halide light bulbs to adjust the color to simulate natural sunlight. Future development of alloys for aerospace and specialty markets is expected. Scandium's availability from Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine increased substantially in 1992, after export controls were relaxed, and sales continue to provide the Western World with most of its scandium alloys, compounds, and metal. China also continued to supply scandium compounds and metal to the U.S. market.
World Mine Production and Reserves: Scandium was produced as byproduct material in China, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine. Foreign mine production data were not available. No scandium was mined in the United States in 2010. Scandium occurs in many ores in trace amounts, but has not been found in sufficient concentration to be mined for scandium alone. As a result of its low concentration, scandium has been produced exclusively as a byproduct during processing of various ores or recovered from previously processed tailings or residues.
World Resources: Resources of scandium are abundant, especially when considered in relation to actual and potential demand. Scandium is rarely concentrated in nature because of its lack of affinity for the common ore-forming anions. It is widely dispersed in the lithosphere and forms solid solutions in more than 100 minerals. In the Earth's crust, scandium is primarily a trace constituent of ferromagnesium minerals. Concentrations in these minerals (amphibole-hornblende, biotite, and pyroxene) typically range from 5 to 100 parts per million equivalent scandium oxide. Ferromagnesium minerals commonly occur in the igneous rocks basalt and gabbro. Enrichment of scandium also occurs in aluminum phosphate minerals, beryl, cassiterite, columbite, garnet, muscovite, rare-earth minerals, and wolframite. Scandium that was produced domestically was primarily from the scandium-yttrium silicate mineral thortveitite, and from byproduct leach solutions from uranium operations. One of the principal domestic scandium resources is the fluorite tailings from the mined-out Crystal Mountain deposit near Darby, MT. Tailings from the mined-out fluorite operations, which were generated from 1952 to 1971, contain thortveitite and associated scandium-enriched minerals. Resources also are contained in the tantalum residues previously processed at Muskogee, OK. Smaller resources are associated with molybdenum, titanium-tungsten, and tungsten minerals from the Climax molybdenum deposit in Colorado and in crandallite, kolbeckite, and variscite at Fairfield, UT. Other lower grade domestic resources are present in ores of aluminum, cobalt, iron, molybdenum, nickel, phosphate, tantalum, tin, titanium, tungsten, zinc, and zirconium. Process residues from tungsten operations in the United States also contain significant amounts of scandium.
Foreign scandium resources are known in Australia, China, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Norway, Russia, and Ukraine. Resources in Australia are contained in nickel and cobalt deposits in Syerston and Lake Innes, New South Wales. Chinaís resources are in iron, tin, and tungsten deposits in Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Jiangxi, and Zhejian Provinces. Resources in Russia are in apatites and eudialytes in the Kola Peninsula and in uranium-bearing deposits in Kazakhstan. Scandium in Madagascar is contained in pegmatites in the Befanomo area. Resources in Norway are dispersed in the thortveitite-rich pegmatites of the Iveland-Evje Region and a deposit in the northern area of Finnmark. In Ukraine, scandium is recovered as a byproduct of iron ore processing at Zheltye Voda. An occurrence of the mineral thortveitite is reported from Kobe, Japan. Undiscovered scandium resources are thought to be very large.
Substitutes: In applications such as lighting and lasers, scandium is generally not subject to substitution. Titanium and aluminum high-strength alloys, as well as carbon fiber and carbon nanotube material, may substitute in sporting goods, especially baseball and softball bats and bicycle frames. Light-emitting diodes, also known as LEDs, are beginning to displace halides in industrial lighting, residential safety and street lighting, and buoys and maritime lamp applications.