Photo: Alchemist-hp

Scandium
Photo: Alchemist-hp

The potentially good news for the mining industry was revealed during the recent American Geopysical Union Fall Meeting, which occurred in San Francisco. Considered “the largest worldwide conference in geophysical science”, the event attracted more than 20,000 attendants, who were able to participate in a few sessions dedicated to the Arctic ocean and its hidden treasures.

According to the Alaska Dispatch, James Hein, a senior scientist at the United States Geological Survey and expert in ocean sciences, talked about “Critical Metals in Western Arctic Ocean Ferromanganese Mineral Deposits”. The researcher analyzed the findings made by North-American cruises in 2008, 2009 and 2012.

Hein revealed that the scientists collected ferromanganese crusts and nodules, concluding that the Arctic ocean notably differed from other oceans in terms of chemical composition. Amidst other less important discoveries, the scientists did find out that the crusts and nodules collected were the only ones from the global ocean enriched in scandium.

Scandium

A silvery-white metal that is sometimes classified as a rare earth element. This substance is often found near other rare earth elements and uranium. It has a high melting point and is resistant to corrosion (like titanium), but considerably lighter.

Scandium’s trading volume is extremely low (only about 12,500 pounds a year), but the amount of money exchanged for such a small quantity is stunning. The substance reached the value of $15 million per ton in 2013.

Arctic ocean Photo: Doc Searls

Arctic ocean
Photo: Doc Searls

This could be a huge breakthrough since there are no active scandium mines on Earth at the present. Scandium is currently produced as a byproduct from uranium mining and comes from places like Kazakhstan and mine tailings spread across the former Soviet Union.

The element is mainly used for military purposes in these destinations, but the aircraft industry is commercially interested in scandium, which is similar to titanium, the metal used to build most airplane bodies. Besides, scandium can also be used to produce reinforced aluminum alloys and in x-ray tubes.