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Australian investors eye a rare earth ecosystem in East Estonia

Australian Hastings Technology Metals has signed a memorandum with the Estonian Investment Agency to explore the establishing of a rare earths hydrometallurgical plant in Ida-Viru county.

Australian company Hastings Technology Metals has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Estonian Investment Agency, according to which the company will explore the possibilities of establishing a rare earths hydrometallurgical plant in Ida-Viru County.

Previously, Hastings has made a strategic investment in Neo Performance Materials Inc., a TSX-listed company with a rare earth separation facility in Sillamae, Estonia, and a rare earth permanent magnet manufacturing plant under construction in Narva. This €200M project is a cornerstone part of EU energy security and green transition. In Estonia, Neo operates Europe’s only operational commercial rare earth separation facility and is set to commence production of rare earth magnets in 2025.

From Australia to Estonia

With the new project in sight, Hastings wants to transport rare earth concentrate from Australia to Europe, where it will be purified using hydrometallurgical methods and used as a feedstock for the Silmet rare earth separation plant in Sillamäe and the magnet plant to be built. This venture aims to unlock the downstream processing potential of rare earth concentrate sourced from the Yangibana Rare Earths Project, creating a sustainable mine-to-magnet European supply chain.

“We welcome the plan of Hastings to carry out a feasibility study for the establishment of a hydrometallurgy plant in Estonia. 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,” said Joonas Vänto, Head of the Estonian Investment Agency (Invest Estonia). Currently, there is no sustainable permanent magnet production capacity in the EU to support the increased demand for wind turbines, electric cars, robotics and more.

Charles Lew, chairman of the Hastings board, says they want to first analyse the project’s viability. “We are delighted with the establishment of this partnership with the Estonian Government to evaluate downstream processing opportunities, including the planning and permitting processes, and possible grant opportunities from the EU Just Transition Fund,” Lew said.

EU Just Transition Fund has been a major source of funding for projects focused on the transition to a greener and more sustainable economy. Neo Performance Materials plant, together with a research and development centre, received €18.75 million from the EU Just Transfer Fund, while the company invested €81.25 million so far.

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