Firebird Metals confirms low-cost Chinese manganese operation with feasibility study

Oakover manganese project in Australia. Credit: Firebird Metals

Firebird Metals (ASX: FRB) has provided a feasibility study for its proposed manganese sulphate operations based in China that demonstrated a low-cost producer of material used in lithium manganese iron phosphate (LMFP) batteries.

The company has several manganese projects in Western Australia, but is aiming to lower production costs by building a plant and establishing operations in China, where it has developed relationships with several experts in the LMFP space.

After assessing a number of locations, Firebird selected Jinshi, Hunan province, as the site of its battery-grade manganese sulphate production facility for the initial phase, during which it will process manganese ore provided by third parties.

According to the feasibility study released on Monday, the projected capex of the Stage 1 operation is estimated at $83.5 million, with another $10.6 million pegged for working capital.

The Stage 1 plant will have a capacity of 50,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of battery-grade manganese sulphate (MnSO4) and 10,000 tpa of manganese tetra oxide (Mn3O4), or the equivalent of 72,500 tpa MnSO4.

The company will rely on the circular industry and plant location within the Jinshi High-Tech Industrial Park, which has localized key reagents and inputs that can drive a low opex of approximately $609/mt for MnSO4. The price of MnSO4 referenced in the feasibility report is $1,419/mt.

“The company has been buoyed by the incredible level of support and interest received from key government agencies and tier-one banks in assisting us establish operations in China,” Firebird managing director Peter Allen said in a news release.

“With their support, Firebird is well-positioned to deliver on key remaining development and financing milestones to meet our objective of commencing operations in China in Q4 2025,” he said, adding that this support also extends to ongoing discussions regarding third-party manganese offtake for Stage 1.

In Stage 2, Firebird will transition to processing ore from its Oakover project, located 85 km east of Newman in the East Pilbara manganese province. The production capacity is expected to rise to 300,000 tpa MnSO4 for the Chinese cathode market plus 100,000 tpa MnSO4 for Western markets.

An August 2023 a scoping study for the Oakover project indicated an 18-year mine capable of producing 1.2 million tonnes of 30-32% pure manganese concentrate annually. The deposit has a measured resource of 172 million tonnes at 9.9% manganese and an indicated resource of 105.8 million tonnes at 10.1% manganese.