Neodymium – The Perfect Storm… Part 2 – Recycling Loudspeaker Neodymium Magnets

By Mike Klasco-Menlo Scientific

Geographically, for the US, the only significant alternative source of neodymium would seem to be the ore deposits, the mine, and the state-of-the-art refining complex at Mountain Pass, CA, as detailed in the first part of this article. Yet there is another almost unlimited source of neodymium – “mined” from recycling electric motors (the Prius first entered the market 20 years ago!), wind turbines, alternators, hard drives, cellphones… and loudspeakers.

Urban Mining Company

In 2014, a couple of entrepreneurs and a Slovenian magnetics scientist banded together under the company name of Urban Mining Co. (UMC) and (briefly) attended the ALMA International Symposium & Expo 2018, which is the Association of Loudspeaker Manufacturing and Acoustics (ALMA) International annual event (now called ALTI). The plan was to recycle neodymium for speaker magnets. At the time, this venture was premature as there were many challenges, but this tenacious team eventually was granted patents. In 2016, they raised $25 million to put together a neodymium magnet recycling facility near Austin, TX. As you read this, there is already a pilot operation in place and a purpose-built “refinery” on schedule for completion. Initially capable of producing 250 tons of recycled magnets annually, a future expansion is planned within two years to recycle 1,000 tons per year.

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