Canadian Neo Performance Materials (NPM), the owner of Silmet, is set to invest €81.25M, and Estonia will add €18.75M through the Just Transition Fund. The facility is believed to transform the region’s economy, providing jobs and paving the way to a clean energy transition.
Rare industry. Big impact
Silmet is a company that produces rare earth metals and alloys. They are based in Estonia and have been in business for almost 100 years, exporting globally. Their products are used in a variety of industries, including electronics, optics, and metallurgy. Why are rare earth magnets such a big thing?
They are permanent magnets with the highest magnetic field strength and the highest magnetic coercivity of any type of magnet. Such magnets are used in a variety of applications, including electric equipment, generators, speakers, and scientific equipment. They are also used in wind turbines and hybrid and electric vehicles.
The demand for magnets is growing as the world moves towards a clean energy future, with the automotive industry as the largest end-use industry of magnets. The average hybrid or electric vehicle uses between 2 and 5 kg of Rare Earth magnets, depending on the design.
The new factory in Narva will have the capacity to produce magnets made of rare earth metals and recycled ones. It’s expected to create hundreds of new jobs. The facility will also include an R&D centre, which will help to develop new materials and applications for magnets.
The investment is a vote of confidence in Estonia and will help to diversify the country’s economy further. It is also a boost for the region, Ida-Viru, which previously had the highest unemployment rate in the country. With its large deposits of oil shale, Ida-Viru was traditionally a centre for Chemical and Energy industries.
Transitioning the region. And the whole of Europe
“These investments will substantially boost the local economy and could create a highly technological ecosystem, including new FDI, local companies, educational institutions and so on”, says Ilmar Branno, Director of Regional Business Development in East Estonia at Estonian Investment Agency. As he and his team facilitated the investment decision process, Branno believes it to be the start of a green transformation for Ida-Virumaa.
“This is an important development driver for the Ida-Virumaa region, around which, as a result, it is possible to build an ecosystem of innovative companies with even more complex and expensive products,” said Lauri Lugna, head of the joint institution of Enterprise Estonia and KredEx.
Silmet’s new magnet factory will be the first of its kind in Estonia, and it will also play a strategic role in Europe. “Complementing our existing operations at NPM Silmet – the only commercially operating industrial rare earth separation facility in Europe – we are now developing the first rare earth permanent magnet plant of its kind that will become an important part of the supply chains of electric vehicles and wind turbines in the European Union and North America,” said Constantine Karayannopoulos, President of Neo Performance Materials.
Currently, the US, China and Japan are the largest producers of magnets in the world. With the new plant, Estonia will play a cornerstone role in the European magnet industry and help to reduce the EU’s dependence on imports.
NPM is the first receiver of governmental support from the Just Transition Fund through the Ida-Viru County measure. The measure’s planned total budget is €153M, which should go towards at least 20 major projects in 2022-2026 and at least 1,000 new jobs in Ida-Viru County. The maximum support sum is between €500,000 and €19M, depending on planned activities and results.
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