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Manganese remains a key critical mineral

A generic image of manganese ore on a loading bay

COMMANDING METAL Manganese is abundant in the Earth's crust with a high level of concentration in run-of-mine extraction at no less than 35% when compared to most base metals with low levels of concentration below 2%

12th April 2024

By: Lumkile Nkomfe

Creamer Media Reporter

     

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Manganese will continue to play an important role in the commodities value chain because of its use in steel and batteries, says French multinational mining and metallurgy company Eramet.

The company asserts that steel, in which manganese is used as an alloying agent during the manufacturing process, will remain essential in building infrastructure for the ongoing urbanisation of the global population and the rapidly growing demand for infrastructure in support of the energy transition, as well as for power generation and transmission infrastructure.

Manganese demand is also growing in the chemical sector for use in various lithium-ion batteries that employ low-cost and manganese-rich chemistries.

Eramet, through its Gabon-based manganese mining and processing subsidiary Comilog, sells high-grade materials to the global market, and has significant market share.

The company’s manganese mines at Moanda are located about 600 km from the coast of Gabon. Given the bulk logistics necessary to efficiently deliver manganese ore to port, Eramet operates the Trans-Gabon railway through its strategic railway subsidiary Setrag.

Close to Gabon’s capital of Libreville at Owendo, Eramet operates a maritime loading operation, which has a capability of moving 200 000 t/y of manganese ore through transhipping infrastructure. The company is assessing options to increase the capacity of this operation. This mining and logistics infrastructure integration allows for efficient operations and contributes to the competitiveness of the Comilog operations.

The manganese ore produced in Gabon and sold globally is of high grade with a manganese content of about 44%. Along with its low level of impurities, the Moanda ore is particularly efficient for use by the global steel industry.

In addition to its global scale in the production and sale of high grade manganese ore, Eramet also operates a portfolio of manganese alloy smelters and holds significant market share in the European and North American markets for various manganese alloys products, particularly in the refined manganese alloys market.

Eramet also actively sells manganese alloy products into the South American and Asian markets, and acknowledges that Asian markets are highly competitive, owing to lower labour and energy costs.

The company asserts that its manganese alloys smelting activity has one of the lowest emission rates in the manganese smelting industry, owing to its use of hydroelectric power at its industrial sites in Norway and Gabon, and decarbonised energy in France. 

Eramet is undertaking industrial tests using bio-reducers at its Norwegian facilities, offering new prospects for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. These bio-reducers could help replace the use of coal in the smelter process. This desire to reduce the emissions intensity of its smelters is underscored in the company’s $40-million investment in energy efficiency projects which will also have a beneficial impact on air quality, over ten years.

Gabon Focus

Reflecting on its presence in foreign jurisdictions, Eramet highlights that it is a significant private sector employer in Gabon, with 8 700 employees and subcontractors under its umbrella, 98% of whom are Gabonese nationals.

Eramet has been present in this country since 1995, maintains close business relationships with the national authorities and complies with the country’s legal framework and regulations.

“Fully aware of its responsibilities, Eramet implements its long-term, responsible and socially aware vision. This commitment is reflected in how carefully it conducts its mining and transportation activity by ensuring it protects the environment, establishes relationships of trust with host communities and participates in the economic development of local areas,” notes Eramet chief development officer Geoff Streeton.

Eramet contributes to the countries the group operates in through infrastructure, and the health and education of populations near its sites, with $673-million contributed to Gabon, $448-million to Norway and $158-million to the US in 2022.

The company is always seeking opportunities to develop its presence in manganese through organic growth, exploration, and mergers and acquisitions.

Edited by Donna Slater
Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer

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