Metals explorer Australian Mines (ASX: AUZ) has said it wants to maximise revenue and shareholder value at its flagship Sconi project in Queensland by developing the “next-generation” of scandium alloys that could command higher revenue margins and serve as better final products for end-users.
Earlier this year, Australia Mines secured an offtake agreement with SK Innovation for 100% of its anticipated cobalt and nickel production for seven years from its flagship wholly-owned Sconi cobalt, nickel and scandium project in Queensland.
A global lithium-ion battery manufacturer for the electric vehicle market, SK Innovation will purchase 100% of Sconi’s nickel and cobalt production at volumes of 12,000 tonnes per annum of cobalt sulphate and 60,000tpa of nickel sulphate.
However, the explorer wants to add a further layer of commerciality to its development by striking up a research partnership with a UK-based company that has developed a novel solid-state process to produce a low-cost yet superior aluminium – scandium alloy to be used by the automotive and aerospace industries.
The solid-state process was first invented by the University of Cambridge before being commercialised by Metalysis and has already demonstrated an ability to produce an aluminium – scandium master alloy containing 15 times the amount of scandium compared to conventional industrial processes.
Australian Mines has said it plans to utilise its demonstration plant in Perth to deliver the high-purity scandium oxide to Metalysis, under its newly-agreed research and development partnership.
If Australian Mines and Metalysis are successful in their aims to produce a scandium-rich master alloy the duo will be able to produce alloys that contain up to 30% scandium metal (compared to the industry’s current 2% scandium metal) and could generate a 93% reduction in the amount of scandium master alloy required to produce the final aluminium – scandium product currently requested by end-users.
Ultimately, the novel process is looking to create substantial cost savings and more efficient products thereby positioning Australian Mines as a global leader in the emerging light-weight alloy sector.