EU: Neo Performance Materials launches Mine-to-Magnet supply chain

Neo Performance Materials has broken ground in Estonia to construct the first plant for permanent magnets from rare earths in Europe. The Canadian company aims for an integrated “mine-to-magnet supply chain” and envisions magnet recycling – another first in the EU.

Rare earth magnets are suitable for traction motors for electric vehicles, among other things, such as wind turbines and other clean energy technologies. In short, they are in high demand (or short supply), and Neo Performance just broke ground to start constructing a new factory to churn out magnets in large quantities.

The importance of establishing what Neo calls a “mine-to-magnet supply chain” in Europe was underscored by a host of representatives attending the groundbreaking ceremony. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Estonian President Alar Karis were among the most high-ranking officials.

Ursula von der Leyen picked up on this being Europe’s first mine-to-magnet supply chain and added the EU was “co-developing this facility with a rare earth mine in Greenland”. The resulting magnets promise lighter batteries, less consumption of critical materials, and higher energy efficiency, she continued.

Neo’s plant is being built in Narva, a city at the eastern extreme point of Estonia, on the west bank of the Narva River, which forms the border with Russia. Neo aims to produce permanent rare earth magnets in 2025 at a capacity “sufficient to support the manufacturing of approximately 1.5 million electric cars”. In Phase 2, production of 5,000 tonnes/year will result in enough magnets for 4.5 million electric cars. When that will be has yet to be disclosed.

As for the supply chain, Neo runs a rare earth separations plant in nearby Sillamäe, Estonia, which the company says will provide rare earth feedstock to the Narva plant and also from the US and other unnamed sources.

These high-purity magnetic rare earth oxides will be transformed into sintered neodymium-iron-boron magnets. Sintered rare earth permanent magnets are “especially integral to the drivetrains of the majority of electric vehicles manufactured today,” informs Neo.

Moreover, Neo wants to “foster a more integrated supply chain for sintered rare earth permanent magnets developed from recycled end-of-life magnets and manufacturing swarf”. This process will be the first of its kind in Europe.

Neo President Rahim Suleman, who is also taking over as CEO this month, said they were building the European facility “with the specifications of our German, French, and other European OEM and Tier 1 customers in mind, suitable for traction motors for electric vehicles”.

EU Commission President Von der Leyen added that Neo had informed her that they had never seen such a fast issuance of permits as for this facility. “And this is Europe at its best,” she said. “With the European, the national and the local institutions all equally on board, with fast, decisive action, with a clear vision for the future, the Union of the future is being won right here in Narva.”

Neo Performance Materials is headquartered in Toronto and manufactures industrial materials such as magnetic powders, magnets, specialty chemicals, metals and alloys.

In Narva, Greg Kroll, who leads Neo’s Magnequench division, said, “Market interest in our plans to produce permanent rare earth magnets in Europe continues to be very robust.”


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