Solvay Partners with Carester for Magnet Recycling & Manufacturing in Europe 

Aerienne site for Solvay rare earths hub for permanent magnets in La Rochelle, France 

Global chemicals giant Solvay and French rare earths consultancy Carester are planning to form a strategic partnership aimed at leveraging the expertise of both companies to pursue manufacturing opportunities within the rare earth industry for the permanent magnets value chain in Europe. The collaboration, announced in March as a signing of a memorandum of understanding, will enable both companies to enhance their respective strengths in the rare earths industry, with Solvay contributing its industrial assets and operational experience, and Carester bringing expertise in recycling end-of-life equipment, upstream market knowledge and related activities. 

For Brussels-based Solvay, the deal is the latest move in efforts to establish a rare earths hub for a permanent magnets supply chain in Europe, centered around its plant in La Rochelle, France. Founded in 1948, the plant is dedicated to rare earth-based formulations. The 40-hectare site, located in the Chef de Baie industrial zone on the seafront, employs over 300 people. The plant manufactures approximately 4,000 tons of rare earth-based formulation products per year for the catalysis, automotive emissions control, polishing and semiconductor markets. 

In 2022, as earlier reported in Magnetics Magazine, Solvay announced its expansive new intention for the site. It set about developing new strategic relationships with other companies involved in rare earths and magnetics and laid plans for new investment at the site to expand and upgrade an existing sophisticated unit that will add the production of separated rare earth oxides for permanent magnets. 

Process flow chart for Caremag project in southwestern France 

Carester is a rare earths consulting firm based in Lyon. While supporting efforts of rare earth mining companies to develop their refining processes, it is also developing the Caremag industrial project. Fully permitted in Lacq, located in southwestern France, and with financial support from France Relance, the initiative is dedicated to magnet recycling and the extraction of heavy rare earths from mining concentrates, using a unique clean and energy-efficient process. 

Aiming to become a pioneer in the recycling of rare-earth permanent magnets from end-of-life equipment in Europe, Caremag’s project is to build an environmentally friendly production unit for pure rare-earth oxides (Neodymium, Praseodymium, Terbium, Dysprosium) in France from two main sources: 

  • Permanent magnets to be recycled (2000t) from production scraps from magnet manufacturing plants (swarfs) or turbine or motor assembly plants (scraps); and end-of-life equipment. 
  • Rare earth concentrates from mines (5,000t) to fill the plant in the first few years and support the economic ramp-up of recycling. 

In run phase, the unit is designed to produce 100t of Praseodymium, 500t of Neodymium, 400t of Dysprosium and 90t of Terbium. It obtained its construction and operating permits in 2023. Construction is scheduled to start in the third quarter of 2024, with production scheduled to begin in 2026. 

In addition to producing pure oxides from recycled magnets or mining concentrates, the project also offers a pre-treatment dismantling solution for equipment containing rare-earth-based permanent magnets such as wind turbines and electric car motors. The availability of this pre-treatment stage is expected to increase Caremag’s access to magnets for recycling by creating a dismantling channel in France. 

Compared with existing recycling units in Asia, the Caremag process reduces CO2 emissions by 60% and water consumption by 98%, making it a unique project worldwide, says the company. It also innovations such as the recycling of 80% of direct CO2 emissions within the process, and the valorization of co-products: boron and ammonium nitrate (fertilizer). 

Not just an industrial project, Caremag is also a company in its own right with 16 employees working at three sites which are the head office in Lyon, three laboratories at Axel’One in Villeurbanne, plus a dismantling and demagnetization site (700m2) in Vénissieux, shown above. 
Phillippe Kehren, CEO of Solvay 

“We’re thrilled to reinforce our dedication to the green energy transition and the rare earths industry through our investment in the magnet value chain, in partnership with Carester,” said Phillippe Kehren, CEO of Solvay. “By collaborating with established rare earths players outside of China, we’re laying the groundwork for a powerful rare earths hub in Europe and establishing a strong European manufacturing base to supply the critically important magnets industry.” 

Frederic Carencotte, CEO of Carester 

“It’s a great opportunity to collaborate with Solvay and its unique recognized asset based in La Rochelle to complement our Lacq future unit. We will then contribute even more to European strategic independence in critical minerals while paving the road for a full circular economy thanks to recycling,” added Frederic Carencotte, CEO of Carester.  

Other notable deals in the Solvay buildup have been reported previously in Magnetics Magazine. In 2023, Solvay and Cyclic Materials, a Canadian cleantech startup producing sustainable rare earth elements for downstream processing, agreed to pursue a plan whereby recycled mixed rare earth oxides would be supplied from Cyclic Materials’ site in Ontario, Canada to Solvay’s plant in La Rochelle. 

Earlier, in October 2022, Solvay and Hastings Technology Metals 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. 

For more info, see and