Manganese is an important metal for steel production. What are the top manganese-producing countries?
Manganese market volatility has become the norm for the top manganese-producing countries in recent years, and 2020 was no different.
After a sharp decline in 2019, COVID-19 lockdowns sent the manganese price soaring in May of last year before a crash brought it down in the second half of the 12 month period.
Looking forward into 2021 and beyond, 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 forward.
What is manganese used for?
While the steel industry is the primary user of manganese metal, consuming it as an alloy in steel production to enhance the strength and workability of the key construction material, manganese is also mixed with aluminum to manufacture tin cans.
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, and are already in use throughout the space.
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 2020. All stats are taken from the US Geological Survey’s most recent report on the metal.
1. South Africa
Mine production: 5.2 million MT
South Africa is the world’s largest producer of manganese by a long shot, but in 2020 its output of the metal dropped slightly, falling from 5.8 million metric tons (MT) to 5.2 million MT. The country also holds the largest reserves of manganese, at 520 million MT.
South32 (ASX:S32,LSE:S32,OTC Pink:SHTLF) is a major presence in the South African manganese space. 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: 3.3 million MT
Australia’s manganese production increased in 2020 to 3.3 million MT, up from 2019’s 3.18 million MT. Though South32 is a key producer in the South African manganese space, the company also has an Australian manganese operation.
As the largest producer of manganese ore, South32 controls a 60 percent stake in a Northern Territory manganese mine, which the company 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: 2.8 million MT
Located on the central western coast of the African continent, Gabon was the third largest producer of manganese in 2020. The coastal top manganese-producing country was responsible for 2.8 million MT of manganese, a slight increase from the previous year’s 2.51 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: 1.4 million MT
Ghana’s 2020 manganese output weighed in at 1.4 million MT, down from the 1.55 million MT it put out in 2019. 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: 1.3 million MT
China was the fifth largest producer of manganese in 2020, recording output of 1.3 million MT; that’s a slim decrease from the 1.33 million MT it produced in 2019.
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.
A manganese reserve containing 708 million tonnes of manganese ore was discovered in the Guizhou province in 2017, the biggest deposit in Asia. With the addition of this massive discovery, China’s total national reserve levels are 54 million MT — the sixth largest global reserve.
Mine production: 1.2 million MT
Brazil produced 1.2 million MT of manganese in 2020, lower than its output of 1.74 million MT in 2019. 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. An 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: 640,000 MT
In 2020, India was the seventh largest producer of manganese. The top manganese-producing country produced 640,000 MT of the metal, a fall from 2019’s 801,000 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, for which manganese is a crucial alloy.
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. The organization’s report, “Manganese Ore: Vision 2020 and Beyond,” outlines the need for increased exploration and production to support growing domestic manganese demand.
Mine production: 550,000 MT
Ukraine takes the spot of eighth largest producer of manganese. The country outputted 550,000 MT of manganese in 2020, a small increase from 2019’s numbers of 500,000 MT. Like some of the other countries on the list, Ukraine is also a major importer of manganese products, specifically 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.
According to SteelOrbis, in the first half of 2020 the nation imported 247,200 tonnes of manganese ore valued at US$32 million. Of that, 80.37 percent came from Ghana, 12.61 percent came from neighboring Russia and South Africa exported 6.9 percent to the country.
9. Cote d’Ivoire
Mine production: 460,000 MT
Ninth on the list of top manganese-producing countries is Cote d’Ivoire. The West African nation put out 460,000 MT of manganese in 2020; that’s down somewhat from 482,000 MT the year prior.
Cote d’Ivoire manganese exports make their way to steel-producing giant China.
10. Myanmar (Burma)
Mine production: 400,000 MT
Myanmar (Burma) put out 400,000 MT of manganese in 2019, a small decrease from 430,000 MT the previous year. Little other information about manganese mining in the country is available.
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.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.