The Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention has been recognized for close to a century as the leading choice for the world’s mineral exploration and mining industry, bringing this year together in Toronto 23,819 attendees from more than 100 countries including Estonia. The Estonian team was this year an active participant at the European Union pavilion, together with the other EU member states’ representatives. A large EU pavilion stood out at the trade show among the other 1,100 international exhibitors. As a result of close to a century of existence, PDAC has become one of the strongest brands in the world.
“Securing Raw Materials for the Green and Digital Transition”, the Networking and Business Breakfast seminar, took place at PDAC on Tuesday, March 7th at the Ballroom of the InterContinental Toronto Centre Hotel. The seminar was presented by the European Union and attracted more than 100 people from all around the world. Margus Raha, Chairman of the Mineral Resources, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications of Estonia, spoke in front of this distinguished audience about the “Critical raw materials for the green and digital transition – what Estonia could offer?”. Vasileios Tsianos, Director of Corporate Development Neo Performance Materials Inc. contributed to the Estonian presentation.
Ülle Baum's interview with Vasileios Tsianos, Director of Corporate Development Neo Performance Materials Inc.
What companies represented Estonia at this year’s PDAC convention? Why is it important to be part of this major mining and mineral exploration annual international event?
At this year’s PDAC, Estonia had a historic presence and its largest delegation to date. At the forefront of the delegation was the Estonian government representation with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications., Enterprise Estonia (Estonian Investment Agency), and the Estonian Geological Survey. Skeleton Technologies was personally present as well. It was no coincidence that there was a packed room at Tuesday morning’s event hosted by the EU at PDAC for Estonia’s presentation of its Geological Survey data, the R&D surge in the country for critical minerals, and the attraction of foreign investment.
PDAC is the largest minerals development conference in the world. If you want to make new contacts with investors, media, developers, suppliers, customers of mining and metals, PDAC is the most efficient place to do it because everyone is there.
How did Toronto-based Neo Performance Materials, Inc. (NPM) (“Neo”, the “Company”) (TSX: NEO.TO) fit into this year’s PDAC convention?
One of the critical minerals and materials that received the most attention was rare earths. Rare Earths are the critical minerals required to manufacture the most energy-saving motors, which reduce energy consumption usually by 30%. In the case of Electric Vehicles, using 2kg in the motor saves 60–70kg of Lithium, Nickel and Cobalt in the battery – since the battery is the most expensive component of an EV, it reduces the cost of vehicle acquisition for citizens in the EU-mandated transition of Internal Combustion Engine to Electric Vehicles. In the case of Offshore Wind Turbines, 70+% of them require on average 1 tonne of rare earth permanent magnets each. In the case of water circulation pumps at our homes that reduce citizen’s energy bills, our Danish customer Grundfos calculated that the use of rare earth magnets made by Neo in the pump design have saved in Europe the installation of the equivalent of 2 nuclear power plants.
Neo Performance Materials, Inc. (NPM), one of the very few unique companies in the world, that has an established infrastructure to develop rare earth products, received in 2022 a 18.7 million Euros grant to build a permanent rare earth magnet plant in Estonia from Europe’s Just Transition fund. This is the first award by this fund given to any critical minerals company in the European Union. SILMET, the NPS’s local subsidiary, announced last year on November 9, that it will construct a magnet factory in Ida-Viru County, Estonia. What does the company’s existing plant in Sillamäe, Estonia do and what will the new plant in Narva give to the world? Please, tell us about the company’s “Magnets-to-Mine” vertical integration strategy.
Neo Performance Materials (TSX: NEO.TO) was proud to wear the jersey of Team Estonia at PDAC this year. We are deeply proud of owning and operating the only industrial-scale, commercially-operating rare earth separation facility in the West, at Sillamae, Estonia. We also have a very high conviction in Neo’s flagship investment in Narva, Estonia to build the first specialty EV motor magnet facility in Europe. With Neo’s most strategic assets of Europe’s rare earth value chain in the midstream and downstream, Estonia is becoming the most consequential jurisdiction for critical supply chains of the critical raw material and advanced magnetic components for EV drivetrain motors needed by European automotive manufacturers. With this year’s major theme of PDAC being critical minerals for the transition to green technologies, Neo’s partnership with the Estonian government to advance this critical rare earth supply chain development strategy received high attention from both the global investor space and the many government delegations participating from the EU and North America.
Has the Neo Performance Materials Inc entered the mining sector? Would you like to add more about Neo’s projects in Estonia?
With Neo’s mining development investment in Arctic Greenland, it will be able in four years to ship rare earth beneficiated concentrate by marine transportation directly from the mine to Neo’s separation facility in Sillamae, which will – in turn – supply the Narva magnet plant with separated Neodymium and Praseodymium oxides, the magnetic elements that are critical for making the specialty permanent magnets for motors of Electric Vehicles (EVs). This way Neo, in partnership with the Estonian industrial and government ecosystem, is establishing the minimum GHG emissions transportation logistics in the global rare earths industry. Neo’s investment in Estonia is consequential for derisking European EV manufacturing and the half million jobs it safeguards in Europe by providing a unique supply chain optionality. This will be the first major transformation of global supply chain contours for rare earths in three decades, with Estonia being the lynchpin to all this.