It is becoming apparent that plasma technology will revolutionize certain of the conventional operations of extractive metallurgy. The use of plasma arcs in the iron and steel industry is already being demonstrated at powers up to 100 MW and these development will be briefly reviewed. In this connection, the advantages of plasma furnaces over electric furnaces are beginning to be well documented.
It is, however, in the area of the production of the refractory metals, such as molybdenum, zirconium, titanium, niobium, tungsten, tantalum, chromium and vanadium, that plasma technology offers unique opportunities as a result of advances in the design of transferred arc reactors. The work of the authors in this particular field will be described as well as other recent industrial developments.