€15 million investment in two new sites to diversify supply

Belgian speciality chemicals giant Solvay has officially opened two new sites in France for recycling rare earth elements.

Demand for such elements is extremely high because of a complex mix of political, economic and technological pressures. In recent years, instability resulting from international disputes involving China, which supplies 96% of rare earth elements to the global market, has prompted companies to look more closely at their supply chains.

The sites will recover a range of elements – lanthanum, cerium, terbium, yttrium, europium and gadolinium – from low-energy light bulbs, batteries and magnets in a bid to diversify the supply chain.

The move follows two years of R&D activity at Solvay, started in 2007, followed by a further two years of scale-up and site selection studies.