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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Scandium Futures Give Hope

The Russian Raw Materials and Commodities Exchange, presently the country's foremost venue for trade in privatization vouchers, believes it has found the elixir that will keep it alive after the voucher's July 1 expiration date: scandium. As of June 1, the exchange initiated the world's only futures market for the rare metal, which is used in computers, television sets, nuclear power stations, airplanes and rockets. Valery Sitar, the expert charged with setting up the scandium trade, said that Russia could be the world's foremost producer of scandium, but has so far lacked a civilized market. Only China produces more scandium than Russia. "Our primary aspiration was to organize the market, to eliminate the criminality that now dominates it and get rid of intermediaries," Sitar said. "Our second aim was to set up a market price for scandium." He said that the exchange was already attracting demand from foreign buyers, though he did not name any. At the third session of scandium futures trading Wednesday, turnover on two contracts came to 271.7 million rubles ($119 million). An ounce (28.3 grams) of scandium sold for 1,350,000 rubles delivered in August and 1,367,000 rubles delivered in September. About two years ago, Sitar said, Russian enterprises that had just obtained freedom from state control decided they could make a lot of money selling scandium. But by the time they had purchased the necessary production equipment and made test lots of scandium, a world glut of the metal had cut severely into prices. "They invested big money into equipment and developed excellent technology, but they can sell nothing at all," he said. Alexander Maximov, president of the Intramet company, which invested "considerable" money two years ago in Western equipment to become one of the world's largest scandium producers, said that he hoped the exchange's quotations would help his company get a fair price for its product. "We are participating out of curiosity, but we lay certain hopes on the trading," he said, adding that his company looks upon each new contract as "a gift from God." Sitar said that the exchange had already tried trading futures contracts for grain, aluminum and other non-ferrous metals, but had failed because Russia lacks the warehouses and transportation infrastructure that such trades require. Scandium, however, does not need much infrastructure. Sitar said that the exchange keeps plastic bottles filled with scandium in the safes of the Russian National Commercial Bank, and that the metal can be delivered from bank to buyer in a small car. So far, the market consists of 15 brokerage firms writing contracts for 15 scandium producers, both state-owned and privatized. Each brokerage pays the exchange 10 million rubles for a seat, and the exchange receives 1,000 rubles for each completed futures contract. Brokerages that trade at the exchange must pay a deposit of 20 percent of each contract in actual scandium to a special fund. If a contract is not fulfilled, the buyer is compensated by the fund and the seller automatically deprived of the right to trade at the exchange. Sitar said that quality is controlled by the State Rare Metals Institute, which checks samples and issues guarantees that the metal is 99.99 percent pure. The exchange, which also deals in stocks and dollar futures, has invested $5 million this year on new trading desks for securities and futures markets.