Global chemicals giant Solvay has joined the Rare Earth Industry Association in its latest move to dramatically build its magnetics business. Planning to develop a major hub for rare earth magnets in Europe, the Belgian-based company has been beefing up its supply chain in addition to the latest step toward building its network of industry partners and potential customers.
In other key moves recently, Solvay has:
- strengthened its supply chain of rare earths from minerals company Hastings Technology Metals in Australia;
- secured full ownership of Solvay Special Chem Japan by buying out the one-third interest of its joint venture partner Santoku; and
- partnered with Cyclic Materials in Canada for supply of recycled rare earth magnetic materials, as earlier reported in Magnetics Magazine.
The REIA is composed of some 60 members from countries including the UK, Germany and France, as well as China, Japan, the USA and Canada, many of them potential business partners and future customers for Solvay.
“We’re thrilled to become part of the well-established and growing REIA community that is focused on the support and growth of the global rare-earth industry,” said Sébastien Méric, Rare Earth Business Director at Solvay. “We look forward to collaborating with the members of the REIA as we are creating a powerful rare-earths hub in Europe in the coming years.”
“We are very pleased to welcome Solvay as a new member of our organization. Solvay is the best-known player in the rare earth chemicals market, and we are proud to collaborate with them to support a diversified, sustainable rare earth industry in Europe and beyond. We look forward to working with them and aim to build a strong partnership,” said Dr Badrinath Veluri, president of REIA.
Earlier, in October 2022, Solvay and Hastings Technology Metals Ltd of Australia signed a non-binding offtake memorandum of understanding which outlines the intent of both parties to enter into a binding commercial offtake agreement for the supply of mixed rare earth carbonate (MREC). Under the agreement, the supply of an initial 2,500 tons per annum of MREC will be sent from Hastings’ Yangibana rare earth project in Western Australia to Solvay’s plant in La Rochelle. The agreement puts both parties in position to explore potential downstream opportunities including magnet production with third parties, said the companies.
“This is a very significant agreement for Hastings,” noted Charles Lew, executive chairman of Hastings. “It sets out the basis of a long-term partnership with Solvay for our downstream mine to magnet strategy which is in line with our European centric business model. We are delighted that Solvay has chosen to work with Hastings as it re-enters the rare earth oxides separation business at a time when long term demand for NdPr oxides is experiencing strong growth.”
“After announcing our plan to make La Rochelle a rare earths hub in Europe, we’re excited to take this next step,” said Solvay CEO Ilham Kadri. “We are thrilled to work with Hastings on this important project, which will play a big role in enabling a permanent magnet value chain. We want to help Europe power its new economy with more autonomous and sustainable solutions for electric mobility, clean energy generation and sensitive electronics applications.”
Located at a site of 650 square kilometers in Western Australia, Hasting’s Yangibana Project is poised to become a new major producer of rare earth neodymium and praseodymium concentrate. Based in Perth, Hastings also owns and operates the Brockman Project, Australia’s largest heavy rare earths deposit. It also owns an approximately 20% stake in Neo Performance Materials, which it purchased in October 2022 for Canadian $134 million through its wholly owned affiliate HTM Investments.
The move in Japan also came in October, when Solvay announced it has taken full ownership of its joint venture stake Solvay Special Chem Japan by acquiring 33% of the minority shares from Santoku Corporation. Now as the sole owner of the operation located in Anan, Japan, Solvay has advanced its capabilities in the production of rare earth specialties used for emissions control in automotive, semiconductor processing, and other emerging technologies including solid oxide fuel cells. “This transaction marks a logical step forward in our global plan to expand our leadership in rare earths specialties,” said Kadri.
Active for decades in rare earths separation, purification, finishing and formulation, last year Solvay announced plans to expand its rare earths operations in La Rochelle, France to enter the value chain for rare earth permanent magnets in Europe and serve customers in the fast-growing electric vehicles, wind power, and electronics markets. With more than EURO 10 billion in sales, 21,000 employees and sites in 98 countries, Solvay produces specialty chemicals products for numerous markets. Its rare earths and metals segments produce a broad range of catalysts, rare earth derivatives, rare earth organometallics and rare earth oxides.