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South Africa Leads Green Transition with Manganese Expertise

by Adenike Adeodun

Nearly 50 years of manganese expertise by Manganese Metal Co in Mpumalanga has positioned South Africa at the forefront. As the world rushes towards high-purity manganese sulphate monohydrate projects for future battery demands, the nation’s mining and refining skills stand out.

The shift towards manganese-rich battery materials has already begun. Manganese cathode active material emerges as an economical, recyclable cornerstone for the energy transition. More significantly, key electric vehicle manufacturers are gravitating towards cathode active materials with enriched manganese content, noting its affordability and environmental benefits.

Despite non-Chinese manganese sulphate potentially demanding a higher price, its impact on the overall battery cell cost remains minimal, given its subsidiary role in battery compositions.

During the Fastmarkets European Battery Raw Materials event in Amsterdam, Madelein Todd, a market development executive at Manganese Metal Co, emphasized her firm’s dedication. They’re on track to produce high-purity manganese sulphate monohydrate in Mbombela (Nelspruit) straight from manganese ore. Notably, they’ve also been the globe’s leading producer of 99.9% pure manganese metal since 1974.

This initiative comes at a crucial juncture. Electric vehicle and battery manufacturers outside China are eager for a consistent supply of non-Chinese high-purity manganese to mitigate dependency on a single nation.

According to a report by Mining Weekly, Todd spotlighted several noteworthy points:

  1. Even if non-Chinese sustainable manganese products cost thrice as much, they remain cost-effective cathode active materials.
  2. Manganese Metal Co’s production will harness renewable energy, dramatically reducing its carbon footprint.
  3. Manganese ore is abundant and superior in quality, reducing mining waste.
  4. Upping the production of manganese sulphate monohydrate won’t drastically alter the overall manganese ore demand, eliminating the need for new mines.

To address the financials, covering capital costs, low carbon emissions, and adherence to European and North American environmental standards would require non-Chinese high-purity manganese sulphate monohydrate to be priced around $2,500/t.

Manganese Metal Co plans to expand. Their current high-purity manganese metal plant, producing 28,000 t/y, may soon accommodate a new 5,000 t/y brownfield plant. This facility will focus on manganese sulphate monohydrate production, potentially followed by a larger 30,000 t/y greenfield project.

A significant portion of their current output (55%) is exported to Japan, with the US and Europe purchasing 25% and 10% respectively. Recently, several clients have transitioned from buying the high-purity electrolytic manganese metal to processing it into manganese sulphate monohydrate. This trend opens an expansive avenue for Manganese Metal Co to diversify and grow.

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