Manganese is an important metal for steel production. What are the top manganese-producing countries?
Market volatility has become the norm for the top manganese-producing countries in recent years.
2021 was no different — after a sharp decline amid COVID-19 lockdowns, manganese prices soared on demand, supply chain costs and bottlenecks. So far in 2022, prices have managed to remain steady.
Looking forward, the metal is strongly dependent on demand from China, which requires large amounts of electrolytic manganese to produce steel for construction. Interest in battery applications for manganese could also be a positive force moving into the future as the green energy transition progresses.
What are the uses of manganese?
While the steel industry is the primary user of manganese metal, consuming it as an alloy to enhance the strength and workability of the key construction material, manganese is also mixed with aluminum to manufacture tin cans.
Aside from that crucial application, manganese dioxide and manganese oxide are often used as cathode materials in the production of zinc-carbon and alkaline batteries. Additionally, after crude oil is refined, manganese may be used as an additive to help coat and protect a car’s engine.
And, as mentioned, one of the most promising uses of manganese is in the lithium-ion battery sector. The silvery metal is used to make lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt oxide, which is known to improve energy loading and lifespan. Batteries using this mineral composition are in high demand from the electric vehicle sector.
As the manganese market continues to develop, it’s useful to know where the metal comes from. Interestingly, almost 78 percent of global manganese mineral resources are found in South Africa, though many other countries are significant manganese producers with sizeable reserves.
Below the Investing News Network has compiled a brief overview of the 10 top manganese-producing countries in 2021. All stats are taken from the US Geological Survey’s most recent report on the metal.
1. South Africa
Mine production: 7.4 million MT
South Africa is the world’s largest producer of manganese by a long shot. In 2021, its manganese output rose by nearly 1 million metric tons (MT). The country also holds the largest reserves of manganese at 640 million MT.
South32 (ASX:S32,LSE:S32,OTC Pink:SHTLF) is a major presence in the South African manganese industry. The diversified miner also produces bauxite, alumina and thermal and metallurgical coal, as well as other in-demand minerals. South Africa Manganese, one of the company’s four operations in South Africa, is made up of Metalloys and Hotazel Manganese Mines. The Hotazel mine is located in the manganese-rich Kalahari Basin, which holds 80 percent of the world’s known manganese ore resources.
Mine production: 3.6 million MT
Located on the central-western coast of Africa, Gabon was the second largest producer of manganese in 2021. The manganese-producing country was responsible for 3.6 million MT of manganese, a slight increase from the previous year’s 3.31 million MT.
Moanda is a key manganese operation in the country. ERAMET (EPA:ERA,OTC Pink:ERMAY), the world’s second top producer of high-grade manganese ore, operates the mine through its subsidiary COMILOG.
Mine production: 3.3 million MT
Australia’s manganese production was flat in 2021 compared to the previous year. Though South32 is a key producer in the South African manganese sector, the company also has an Australian manganese operation.
As the largest producer of manganese ore, South32 has a 60 percent stake in a Northern Territory manganese mine, which it operates through its subsidiary Groote Eylandt Mining Company (GEMCO). The open-cut manganese mine is one of the world’s lowest-cost manganese ore producers. Anglo American (LSE:AAL,OTCQX:AAUKF) holds the other 40 percent interest in the project.
In addition to GEMCO, the miner operates Tasmanian Electro Metallurgical Company (TEMCO), as well as the TEMCO manganese alloy plant, which produces ferromanganese used for steel manufacturing.
Mine production: 1.3 million MT
China was the fourth largest producer of manganese in 2021, recording output of 1.3 million MT; that’s a slim decrease from the 1.34 million MT it produced in 2020.
As mentioned, the country is not only a player in manganese ore production, but also a major consumer of manganese as it uses large amounts of the metal in steelmaking.
Several large manganese deposits were reportedly discovered in Guizhou province in 2017, but have yet to be advanced. They are not counted by the US Geological Survey, which places China’s manganese reserves at 54 million MT — the sixth largest globally.
Mine production: 670,000 MT
Ukraine takes the spot of fifth largest producer of manganese. The country output 670,000 MT of manganese in 2021, a nearly 100,000 MT increase from 2020’s numbers. As with some of the other countries on the list, Ukraine is also a major importer of manganese products, specifically manganese ore.
The country is among the top five for largest reserves of manganese ore in the world, at 140 million MT. The country’s Nikopol basin holds about a third of the explored reserves. Ukraine also has significant iron ore, coal and titanium deposits. Russia’s war in Ukraine will no doubt have an impact on the country’s ability to produce in 2022.
Mine production: 640,000 MT
Ghana’s 2021 manganese output weighed in at 640,000 MT, up slightly from the 637,000 MT it produced in 2020. Most manganese in the country is mined in the western region around the city of Takoradi.
Consolidated Minerals, better known as Consmin, a subsidiary of Ningxia Tianyuan Manganese Industry (TMI), is one of the four largest producers of manganese in the world by volume and holds a 90 percent stake in Ghana Manganese Company, which runs the Nsuta mine. Manganese ore from the operation was traditionally destined for the electrolytic manganese metal market, much of it as captive supply for TMI’s China-based operations.
Mine production: 600,000 MT
In 2021, India was the seventh largest producer of manganese. The top manganese-producing country produced 600,000 MT of the metal, a fall from 2020’s 632,000 MT.
As with China and Brazil, India is one of the leaders in manganese consumption, as well as one of the top producers in the world. A vast majority of India’s manganese goes to the production of steel.
Unfortunately, that could pose problems for India in the years to come — according to the Indian Ministry of Mines, the country is facing a shortage of manganese for steel production.
8. Cote d’Ivoire
Mine production: 500,000 MT
Eighth on the list of top manganese-producing countries is Cote d’Ivoire. The West African nation put out 500,000 MT of manganese in 2021; that’s down somewhat from 525,000 MT the year prior.
Cote d’Ivoire's manganese exports make their way to steel-producing giant China.
Mine production: 400,000 MT
Brazil produced 400,000 MT of manganese in 2021, lower than its output of 494,000 MT in 2020. Major miner Vale (NYSE:VALE) is the largest manganese miner in the country and accounts for 70 percent of its market. According to the company, 80 percent of its manganese comes from the Azul mine.
Like China, Brazil is a consumer of manganese in addition to being a top producer of the metal. A 2015 infographic from Visual Capitalist suggests that in the future, much of the manganese that Brazil uses could to go the agricultural sector. The country is a major supplier of agricultural products, but the land it uses to produce those products is low in manganese. As a result, the country’s demand for manganese is expected to grow in coming years as farmers look to improve crop health.
Mine production: 360,000 MT
Malaysia put out 360,000 MT of manganese in 2020, a small increase from 347,000 MT produced in the previous year. The country recently emerged on the scene as a new hub for manganese ferroalloy production.
Malaysia’s manganese production accounts for 14 percent of US imports, as per the US Geological Survey. Singapore-based manganese and silicon metals company OM Holdings’ (ASX:OMH,OTCQX:OMHI) subsidiary OM Sarawak owns a ferrosilicon and manganese alloy smelter in Malaysia, which has an output capacity of around 250,000 to 300,000 MT per year of manganese alloy.
Potential manganese deposits
There are a number of mining companies interested in the developing manganese resources, and others working in exploration to target new deposits. Mining for manganese is one way to recover the metal, and scouring the seafloor is another way to source this valuable construction and battery metal.
According to the World Ocean Review, manganese nodules cover thousands of square kilometers on the ocean floor. The metal-bearing nodules are primarily composed of manganese; however, they also contain nickel, cobalt and copper, making them a potentially lucrative diversified mineral resource.
Is manganese a metal?
Manganese is considered an important industrial metal. With the atomic number 25, it is a hard, brittle, silvery metal that is only second to iron among the transition elements in its abundance in Earth’s crust.
What function does manganese dioxide have in batteries?
Manganese dioxide has long been used as a depolarizer in alkaline batteries, but this is not the manganese battery market that is now the most interesting. Attention is being drawn to lithium-ion battery chemistries that require manganese — such as lithium-manganese oxide batteries and lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt oxide batteries.
In these batteries, electrolytic manganese dioxide is used as a cathode material. Investors who believe battery sector demand for manganese will increase are optimistic that lithium-ion batteries that require manganese will become more common in the future.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
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