Home » South African Firm Targets Battery-Grade Manganese for Electric Vehicles

South African Firm Targets Battery-Grade Manganese for Electric Vehicles

by Victor Adetimilehin

A South African company with nearly five decades of experience producing selenium-free electrolytic manganese metal (EMM) is now venturing into the battery electric vehicle (BEV) market with a new product: high-purity manganese sulphate. Manganese Metal Company (MMC), headquartered in Nelspruit, holds the distinction of being the world’s largest EMM producer, a vital ingredient in steelmaking and various other industries. The company sources its raw materials from Hotazel in South Africa’s Northern Cape.

MMC is currently engaged in research and development to create a process for manufacturing high-purity manganese sulphate. This substance serves as a cathode material in lithium-ion batteries for BEVs. The company plans to construct a 5,000-ton-per-year brownfields plant at its existing site by 2026/27 and later expand to a 30,000-ton-per-year greenfields plant. MMC’s chairman, Bernard Swanepoel, a seasoned mining expert, believes that the company is well-placed to tap into the surging demand for battery materials, particularly in regions like Europe and North America, where environmental standards are stringent, and supply chains are diversifying.

“We have the experience, technology, quality, and sustainability credentials to become a dependable supplier of high-purity manganese sulphate for the BEV market. We are enthusiastic about this opportunity and confident in our ability to compete globally.”

Jan Steenkamp, MMC’s chief executive officer, emphasized that the company had made substantial investments in research and development over the years to enhance its EMM production process and reduce its carbon footprint. Now, MMC is applying its expertise and innovation to create a new product tailored to meet the specifications and requirements of battery manufacturers. Steenkamp is pleased with the progress made so far and aspires to reach the target purity level of 99.9%.

MMC faces challenges in securing capital, ensuring market access, and competing with China, which currently dominates the global supply of refined manganese products. The company must also navigate the price uncertainty and volatility of manganese sulphate, a commodity not traded on any exchange. MMC is counting on its decades-long track record of producing high-quality EMM to gain an advantage over new entrants and establish enduring relationships with battery customers. The company also believes that its low carbon emissions profile and adherence to international environmental standards will give it a competitive edge in the green economy.

MMC hopes that its success will serve as an inspiration for other South African companies to explore opportunities in this rapidly expanding sector.

Source: Creamer Media’s Engineering News & Mining Weekly

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