Bauxite is the major ore for aluminum production. Alumina is extracted from bauxite by the Bayer process. The waste slurry generated in this process is called red mud and its solid fraction is called bauxite residue. Bauxite residue contains several interesting minor or trace elements, among which are the rare-earth elements (REEs) as well as scandium (Sc) and Yttrium (Y).
These Trace Elements are characterized at the ppm level, i.e. 1 milligram per 1 kilogram (mg/kg), and a pilot-plant study performed by Japanese Scientist at the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI) has shown that the REE can be successfully extracted. In Red-Mud the total REEs composition is known to be approximately ~ 900ppm.
More than 90% of the trace metal value in Red-mud can be attributed to the presence of one of these REEs, namely Scandium (Binnemans et al., 2013). This significance has been recognized by the leading researchers and as such research is underway as to secure the most economically feasible way to extract and concentrate the scandium recovered from the Red-Mud; one such research is now underway here in Jamaica at the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI).