An Australian company may build a hydrometallurgical plant in Estonia

Australian company Hastings Technology Metals has signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with the Estonian Business and Innovation Agency to collaborate on a joint scoping study on the potential development of downstream rare earth processing capacity in Estonia.

“We are pleased to welcome Hastings to conduct a feasibility study for the establishment of a hydrometallurgical plant in Estonia,” Joonas Vanto, the head of the foreign investment department of the Business and Innovation Agency, said in a statement.

“The establishment of such a plant would help to further develop the value chain of permanent magnets and electrification that is already operating here and would support Estonia’s and the European Union’s ambition to achieve climate neutrality.”

The European Union currently lacks sustainable permanent magnet manufacturing capacity to meet the growing demand for wind turbines, electric cars, robotics and more.

Hastings Technology Metals’ flagship Yangibana mine in Australia. Photo by Hastings Technology Metals.

Hastings wants to transport rare earth concentrate from Australia to Europe, where it would be purified by hydrometallurgical methods and used as raw material for the Silmet rare earth separation plant in Sillamäe and the magnet factory being built in Narva.

Analysing the profitability

Hastings also has a 20 per cent stake in Silmet’s parent company, Neo Performance Materials.

According to Charles Lew, executive chairman of Hastings, the first step is to analyse the viability of the project.

“Hastings is delighted to establish this partnership with the Business and Innovation Agency to assess downstream processing options, including planning and permitting processes and possible support opportunities from the European Union’s Just Transition Fund,” Lew said.

Processing at the Silmet rare earth separation plant in Sillamäe, Estonia. Photo by Silmet.

Neo Performance Materials announced in 2022 that it plans to build a magnet production plant with a research and development centre in Narva. The state supported the project with €18.75 million from the Just Transition Fund, while Neo Performance Materials invested €81.25 million.

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