Scandium has been getting a lot of attention lately, and for good reason.
John Kaiser of Kaiser Research has spoken extensively about the enormous latent demand for scandium that he believes exists due to the metal’s applications in aluminum alloys and solid oxide fuel cells.
Global supply and consumption come in at about 10 to 15 tons per year, according to the USGS, but Kaiser and other analysts have suggested that end users would be willing to buy should a primary, scalable supply become available.
Those interested in the metal are probably curious about prices. However, scandium prices, like prices for most critical metals, are not easy to come by.
No organized market
Unlike copper or gold, scandium is not traded on any public market or metals exchange. As this 2014 white paper from Scandium International Mining (TSX:SCY) notes, there’s no terminal or futures markets where interested buyers and sellers can set a price either, although there are some online sellers that offer small amounts of scandium products.
In general, scandium sales are settled between individual buyers and sellers, and prices are kept private.
Different scandium product, different scandium price
It may be a small market, but there’s more than one scandium product out there. Scandium International’s white paper notes that, as with many other materials, quality matters. While 99.9 percent scandium oxide is needed for electrical applications, that isn’t necessary for alloy applications.
Besides scandium oxide, other products include scandium chloride, scandium iodide, scandium fluoride and scandium acetate. Scandium iodide is added to halide light bulbs in order to help simulate natural sunlight.
Scandium International states that pure scandium metal is “extremely scarce and expensive.”
That said, it is possible to get a bit of insight into scandium prices. In a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) for its Elk Creek project — which has since been updated — NioCorp Developments (TSXV:NB) pegs the range of pricing for scandium oxide at US$2,000 to US$5,000 per kilogram, while Scandium International puts that range between $3,000 and over $5,000, depending on the product’s quality and purity, among other things.
Additionally, the USGS puts out data on the subject each year. The USGS did not include prices for scandium oxide in its 2015 report, but in its 2014 report, 2013 prices are estimated at US$5,000 per kilogram for 99.99 and 99.999 percent purity scandium oxide.
Prices for 99.9995 percent purity scandium oxide are estimated at US$6,000 per kilogram, and prices for all purities have risen substantially since 2009.
Most other products are priced by the gram, and they’re expensive. Here are a few examples:
- 99.9 percent purity scandium acetate: US$43 per gram
- 99.999 percent purity scandium chloride: US$123 per gram
- 99.9 percent purity scandium fluoride: US$263 per gram
- 99.999 percent purity scandium iodide: US$187 per gram
Distilled dendritic scandium metal and scandium ingot prices were reported at $221 per gram and $134 per gram respectively, with Stanford Materials cited as the source for this information.
Scandium prices too high?
Both Scandium International Mining and Clean TeQ Holdings (ASX:CLQ) have stated that scandium prices are too high to allow for widespread adoption. They’ve also suggested that, in addition to reliable supply, cheaper prices will be needed for the metal to gain more widespread use.
Thus, it’s interesting to take a look at the scandium prices being used in technical reports for scandium projects being developed by junior miners:
- Scandium International’s PEA for its Nyngan scandium project in New South Wales, Australia assumes a 97 to 99 percent purity scandium oxide price of US$2,000 per kilogram.
- Clean TeQ’s scoping study for its Syerston scandium deposit, also in New South Wales, uses a long-term 99.9 percent purity scandium oxide price assumption of US$1,500 per kilogram.
- Platina Resources (ASX:PGM) used a US$2,000-per-kilogram scandium oxide price in a scoping study for its Owendale project, released in March 2015.
For NioCorp Developments’ Elk Creek niobium project, scandium is a co-product, along with titanium dioxide.
Based on a study from OnG Commodities, the company states in its updated PEA that it expects scandium prices to drop in the first year of production at Elk Creek due to a reliable supply of scandium becoming available. It then sees prices rising again as a result of increased demand from the solid oxide fuel cell and aerospace industries.
Accordingly, it’s using a base-case market price for scandium oxide of US$3,500 per kilogram through 2017, moving to US$3,000 per kilogram from 2019 to 2020 and then rising to US$4,000 per kilogram by 2023.
Securities Disclosure: I, Teresa Matich, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.