Solvay S.A. (Brussels, Belgium) announced plans to expand its rare earths operations in La Rochelle, France to enter the value chain for rare earths permanent magnets in Europe and serve customers in the fast-growing electric vehicles, wind power, and electronics markets. Rare-earth magnets are strong permanent magnets made from alloys of rare-earth elements. They are the strongest type of permanent magnets made, producing significantly stronger magnetic fields than other types of magnets.
For decades, Solvay has been involved in rare earths separation, recycling, purification, finishing and formulation and the plant is already active in the separation and recycling of rare earths for captive use. With this investment, the Group has the ambition to create a powerful rare earths hub in Europe in the coming years.
The La Rochelle plant currently serves the automotive emissions control and semiconductors markets. This new investment will expand and upgrade an existing sophisticated unit that will add the production of separated rare earth oxides for permanent magnets to the site. These are essential components used in the traction motors of electric vehicles, the generation motors of wind turbines and many other applications in electronics.
At present, most advanced magnets are imported from overseas. Solvay’s new hub will help develop European autonomy for these critical materials and also address the shortage of rare earth key elements by playing a proactive role in the recycling of magnets.
“Rare earths are essential to ensure the green energy transition. Our investments in the magnets’ value chain will help Europe power its new economy with more autonomous and sustainable solutions for electric mobility, clean energy generation and sensitive electronics applications,” said Ilham Kadri, Solvay CEO. “It is a very exciting step that will further strengthen our leadership in rare earths.”
Solvay has been continuously reinventing its rare earth business through numerous technologies, legislation and market evolutions and will continue to do so by maximizing on these tremendous business opportunities underpinned by powerful megatrends.
Solvay will pursue alliances with other global champions in this field, and has active participation in European consortia to secure partnerships and funding.