Rare earth elements (REE) consist of 17 different chemical elements with unique properties and are critical raw materials in several technologies, not to forget in connection with the green shift. The largest end user of REEs is the magnet industry, which utilizes neodymium, praseodymium and dysprosium as key elements to produce energy-efficient motors. These motors are essential for electric mobility and renewable energy technologies.
A new EU-funded project will develop cost-effective and sustainable supply of rare earth elements to European industry and strategic sectors. Today, the majority of the deliveries of rare earth elements to the industry come from China, but the EU has recently adopted an ambitious strategy to significantly increase Europe's own supply and processing of rare earth elements.
– SINTEF wants to contribute to this, and the project is an important step in this direction, says senior research scientist Arne Petter Ratvik at SINTEF.
SINTEF is now coordinating an EU project that will develop efficient processing of rare earth minerals all the way to finished magnets. The aim is to establish the first European value chain for magnet production, based on the use of European resources and cost-effective processes.
About the project SUPREEMO
The project Sustainable European Rare Earth Elements production value chain from priMary Ores (SUPREEMO) is supported with 7 million EUR under the framework programme Horizon Europe. The project is coordinated by SINTEF and the consortium consists of a total of eleven leading European actors from industry and academia: Greenland Minerals Ltd, REE Minerals AS, MAGNETI LJUBLJANA Podjetje za proizvodnjo magnetnih materialov, d.d., Technische Universiteit Delft, Chalmers University of Technology, Technická univerzita v Košiciach, Pno Innovation n.v., Inovertis, Prospex Institute and Less Common Metals Ltd.
The project starts at January 1, 2024, and will have a duration of four years.
Arne Petter Ratvik, Senior Research Scientist, SINTEF, +47 92 29 61 56,
Thor Bendik Weider, styreleder, REE Minerals AS, + 47 920 84 303,
REE Minerals is playing a key role in the project by supplying the raw materials to be processed. The raw materials are taken from Fensfeltet at Ulefoss, Europe's probably largest deposit of light rare earth elements. The field contains enough REE to meet the expected demand for decades and strategically located close to key markets.
– The deposits here provide Norway a unique opportunity to develop an industry that is both commercially interesting and strategically necessary for Europe, says Thor Bendik Weider, Chairman of the Board of REE Minerals.
The project aims to further develop technologies for processing rare earth elements that have been demonstrated in previous projects, which SINTEF has participated in and coordinated, such as in SecREEts, REEPRODUCE and REE4EU.
In the new project SUPREEMO, the technologies will be developed to Technology Readyness Level 7 (TRL7). This involves the development of a full-scale demonstration plant where the goal is to process ten tonnes of ore into rare earth elements, enough for 50 kilograms of magnets.
Based on this, the project will develop a business plan that will be presented to investors, with the aim of stimulating to a competitive, robust and sustainable value chain, ready for full-scale REE production in the EU market.