Once a Soviet-era uranium processing plant, the Silmet factory in Sillamäe, Estonia, is now Europe’s leading processor of rare earths. Silmet’s mother company, Toronto-headquartered Neo Preformance Materials, aims to establish the continent’s first manufacturer of high performance magnets for European consumers. These “permanent magnets” have the potential to make a huge impact in the European electric car and offshore wind-turbine industries, which up until now were exclusively dependent on supplies from an increasingly less reliable source – China.
It was during the COVID-19 pandemic, when China's borders temporarily closed, that something clicked in Raivo Vasnu’s mind. Silmet, the factory he heads in Sillamäe, Estonia is a former Soviet uranium-processing facility in Europe’s north-easternmost tip near the Russian border. It is also Europe’s largest processor of rare earths, a crucial category of elements necessary for a wide range of technologies, including electric cars and wind turbine technologies.
February 7, 2024 -
Isabelle de Pommereau