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NPM Silmet OÜ
Company typeSubsidiary of Neo Performance Materials
IndustryNon-ferrous metal
Key people
  • Raivo Vasnu (managing​ director)
  • Andrei Katsuba (financial​ director)
ProductsRare metals
Rare-earth metals
Number of employees
ParentNeo Performance Materials
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata

NPM Silmet AS is a rare-earth processor located in Sillamäe, Estonia. It is a subsidiary of Neo Performance Materials.


Pre-war history and World War II[edit]

History of Silmet dates back to 1926 when Swedish-Norwegian Eestimaa Õlikonsortsium (Swedish: Estländska Oljeskifferkonsortiet; English: Estonian Oil Consortium), controlled by Marcus Wallenberg, was established to build a shale oil extraction plant in Sillamäe. For shale oil production, the consortium built a tunnel oven in 1928. However, due to the Great Depression, production halted in 1930 and was restarted only in 1936 by the reorganized consortium called Baltic Oil Company. The second tunnel oven was added in 1938. The main product was gasoline. After the Soviet occupation started in 1940, the plant was nationalized according to the 30 May 1941 Moscow Agreement between the Soviet Union and Sweden.[1][2] Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 and the industry's infrastructure was largely destroyed by retreating Soviet forces. During the subsequent German occupation, the plant was restored and subordinated to a company named Baltische Öl GmbH.[3] However, most of its facilities were destroyed during the war.

Soviet era[edit]

Restoration of the plant restarted immediately after Soviet troops took control in Estonia in 1944. In 1945, the Glavgastopprom Oil Shale Processing Plant was established based on the existing plant. In 1946, the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union approved the establishment of the diversified enterprise Kombinat No 7 on the basis of the Glavgastopprom Oil Shale Processing Plant for mining and processing Dictyonema argillite ore (a type of oil shale). The new plant was built mainly by using labour of war prisoners. In 1947 when the new factory was built, the code name Military Unit No 77960 was assigned to the Kombinat No 7. In 1955, a new code name Enterprise POB 22 was assigned. During the Soviet period, the enterprise was renamed several times and its names included Factory No 7, Enterprise P.O.B. P-6685, Sillamäe Metallurgical Plant, and Sillamäe Chemical Metallurgical Production Association.[2]

During 1946–1952, Dictyonema argillite was mined and used for uranium oxide production.[2][4][5][6][7] Later richer uranium ores were imported to the Sillamäe plant from various locations of Central Asia and the Eastern Bloc, mainly from mines in Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania.[8] In 1982, the plant began the production of reactor-grade enriched uranium (2–4.4% 235U) in form of UO2. Uranium production at Sillamäe continued to supply nuclear materials for the Soviet nuclear power plants and weapon facilities until 1989. In the years of 1950–1989, the plant produced about 98,681 tonnes of uranium (mostly as U3O8) and 1354.7 tonnes of enriched uranium.[9]

In 1970, the plant started to process loparite ore from the Kola Peninsula producing tantalum and niobium. Later, it also started to extract rare-earth metal oxides.[9]

1990–recent time[edit]

In 1990, the enterprise stopped processing uranium. It was renamed Silmet and was reorganized as state-owned joint-stock company. In 1997, the company was privatized. Following the privatization, the company went under control of former prime minister Tiit Vähi. In 2002, Austrian Treibacher Industrie AG became a minority shareholder. In 2005, Vähi sold a controlling stake in Silmet to Russian related Swiss company Zimal SA, but bought it back in 2010.[10][11][12]

In April 2011, Molycorp bought 90% stake in Silmet for US$89 million.[13] The company was renamed Molycorp Silmet. Remaining 10% was acquired by Molycorp in October 2011.[14]

In June 2015, Silmet's parent company Molycorp filed for bankruptcy. New owner of Silmet is Toronto-based Neo Performance Materials Corp. Correspondingly, Silmet was renamed NPM Silmet in September 2016. "Molycorp Silmet renamed NPM Silmet AS". The Baltic Course. 2016-09-15. Retrieved 2017-02-12.[citation needed]

In 2019, NPM Silmet OÜ received recognition as the best enterprise in Ida-Virumaa and the best enterprise of Estonian chemical industry.[15] [16]


Silmet operates three factories: metallurgical factory, rare metals factory, and rare-earth metals factory. Its main products are niobium and tantalum.


  1. ^ Holmberg, Rurik (2008). Survival of the Unfit. Path Dependence and the Estonian Oil Shale Industry (PDF). Linköping Studies in Arts and Science. Vol. 427. Linköping University. pp. 107–108, 130, 272.
  2. ^ a b c Maremäe, Ello; Tankler, Hain; Putnik, Henno (2003). "Uranium Production Research at Sillamäe, Estonia in 1946–1989". In Maalmann, Iige (ed.). Historical Survey of Nuclear Non-Proliferation in Estonia, 1946–1995 (PDF). Estonian Radiation Protection Center. pp. 13–14.
  3. ^ Uibopuu, Lembit. "Saksa kapital Eesti põlevkivitööstuses (1922–1940) ja Eesti põlevkivitööstus Saksa okupatsiooni ajal (1941–1944)" [The German capital in Estonian oil shale industry (1922–1940) and the Estonian oil shale industry during the German occupation (1941–1944)] (in Estonian). Tallinn University of Technology. Archived from the original on 2014-10-26. Retrieved 2014-04-05. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ Dyni, John R. (2006). Geology and resources of some world oil-shale deposits. Scientific Investigations Report 2005–5294 (PDF) (Report). U.S. Department of the Interior. U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
  5. ^ Lippmaa, Endel; Maremäe, Ello (2000). "Uranium production from the local Dictyonema shale in North-East Estonia". Oil Shale. A Scientific-Technical Journal. 17 (4). Estonian Academy Publishers: 387–394. ISSN 0208-189X.
  6. ^ Maremäe, Ello (2001). "Extraction of uranium from local Dictyonema shale at Sillamäe in 1948–1952". Oil Shale. A Scientific-Technical Journal. 18 (3). Estonian Academy Publishers: 259–271. ISSN 0208-189X.
  7. ^ Lippmaa, E.; Maremäe, E. (2003). "The beginnings of uranium production in Estonia". Oil Shale. 20 (2). Estonian Academy Publishers: 167–174. ISSN 0208-189X.
  8. ^ Diehl, Peter (1995). "Uranium production in Europe". WISE. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
  9. ^ a b Lippmaa, Endel; Maremäe, Ello. "Uranium Processing at Sillamäe and Decommissioning of the Tailings". Proceedings of the NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Turning a Problem into a Resource: Remediation and Waste Management at the Sillamäe Site, Estonia.
  10. ^ "Ex-PM Tiit Vahi sells controlling stake in Silmet to Russians". Baltic Business News. 2006-01-03. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
  11. ^ "Silmet Grupp boosts holding in Silmet to 90 pct through share repurchase". Baltic News Service. 2010-12-17. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
  12. ^ Tere, Juhan (2010-12-20). "Tiit Vähi buys back Silmet's shares". The Baltic Course. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
  13. ^ "Molycorp buys rare earth processor". Bloomberg Businessweek. Associated Press. 2011-04-04. Archived from the original on April 15, 2011. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
  14. ^ Banerjee, Ankur (2011-10-24). "Molycorp buys rest of European rare earths plant". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
  15. ^ "Ida-Virumaal lõikas loorbereid NPM Silmet". Äripäev. 2019-12-12. Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  16. ^ "Keemiatööstuse TOPi võitja: Turg ei soosi tööjõumahukat tootmist".

External links[edit]