South Africa’s manganese output expected to grow – report

Manganese oxide rock. (Reference image by James St. John, Flickr).

South Africa’s manganese output is expected to increase strongly, with Roskill predicting that the country will account for around half of the additional global manganese ore production over the next decade.

Data by Research and Market and the Observatory of Economic Complexity placed South Africa as the world’s largest producer and exporter of manganese ore in 2019, accounting for 30% of global production and almost 50% of global exports.

In that year, the country exported – mainly to China, India, Japan and Norway – $3.16 billion in manganese ore, making the brittle metal its eighth most exported product. 

In Roskill’s view, the positive trend for South African manganese is set to continue in part due to the ramping up of Ntsimbintle Holdings and Glencore’s Mokala mine in the Northern Cape.

Mokala is already entering a stable production phase so it should start soon generating more than one million tonnes of manganese ore a year. The operation has an opencast life of mine of more than 10 years, with additional underground resources. 

“This is the second manganese mine brought into operation under Ntsimbintle’s umbrella, the first being the Tshipi é Ntle manganese mine, also located in the Northern Cape,” Roskill’s review states. “This comes despite a difficult price market for ores over 2021, which has seen significant contrast to the surging price market developments in alloys.”

The market analyst points out that while the manganese alloy markets have experienced undersupply and significant price increases, the ore market has remained burdened by high stock levels, which has led to slight price increases since the beginning of 2021. 

Yet, according to Roskill, despite low ore prices and increased production costs, almost all mainstream ore suppliers remain profitable and none are cutting production to aid their higher-cost smaller-scale competitors. 

“Indeed quite the reverse, numerous major ore producers are continuing to expand output, hence the global market remains very well supplied and prices have been held down,” the firm’s report reads.

Manganese ore is a key element in carbon steel production, while electrolytic manganese dioxide is an important ingredient in lithium-ion batteries for EVs and other applications, as well as alkaline and zinc-manganese batteries.