Historically, electrolytic manganese metal (EMM) held a few basic
critical and strategic uses, primarily in the alloying of steel, stainless
steel and aluminum to name a few. Back in 1987 the US government classified
manganese as a strategic metal and it was even considered strategic by the
Department of Defense (DOD) as far back as 1918. This is not hard to
understand when manganese has no substitute metals in its many past steel
applications and has itself (EMM) become a substitute for other more
expensive metals in certain alloys thanks to new and innovative metallurgical
was once held by the US government in vast strategic reserve stockpiles which
are no longer in existence. They are gone, sold off. Today there are no
domestic suppliers of EMM in North America and China controls 97% of the
world trade in EMM. Manganese is the fourth largest traded metal worldwide
and you cannot make steel without 10 to 20 pounds of manganese per tonne of steel, depending on the grade and type of steel.
Manganese can also replace the more costly nickel alloy used in stainless
refined forms of manganese such as EMD (electrolytic manganese dioxide) can
be made from the same circuits and process as electrolytic manganese metal. The
USA is the largest consumer of EMD worldwide. Currently battery consumption
of EMD is predicted to be the fastest growing segment of manganese production
worldwide. Chairman William Clay Ford Jr. of Ford Motor Co. predicts
25% of all Ford’s future auto production will be electric vehicles by
As can be
seen, changes are coming fast and furious in the broad spectrum of new
applications for this strategic metal. With the world turning to “green
energy” the realm of metallurgical scientists have become very
interested in electrolytic manganese and as such have been, and are, hard at
work advancing and defining new technologies and subsequent applications,
many of which use EMM in the various discovery uses currently being made.
One of the
first new widespread uses for EMM is in the cathodes of lithium-ion batteries
for electric vehicles (EV). EMD is used in the anodes. This technology is
already in use by GM’s Chevy Volt as well as the Nissan Leaf and is in
development by other automotive manufacturers. The Argonne National
Laboratory in conjunction with Envia Systems has
developed a “high capacity manganese rich cathode” (HCMRC)
battery and they claim it holds twice the charge of other lithium-ion type
batteries currently in use, can be recharged in a few minutes and is
approximately half the weight of other EV storage batteries as well as having
a lower production cost than other comparable lithium-ion type batteries
currently under development. Lithium manganese dioxide batteries (Li-Mn2-O4)
(LMD) contain 4% lithium, 61% manganese and 35% oxygen by atomic weight.
somewhat unspoken aspect of this new battery technology is the fact that
every appliance, tool and EV using stored electricity will be revolutionized
by this new discovery. Thinking of it in wider terms of marine and
military vehicles, unmanned drones, forklifts, buses, even golf carts etc, the list seems endless. Lithiated
manganese dioxide (LMD) batteries are already being used by Milwaukee Tools
in their electric battery tools sector and this technology application is
rapidly growing with many other tool companies.
batteries, besides having a high power output and low production costs, also
exhibit high thermal stability and enhanced safety when compared to other
lithium-ion batteries. The University of Illinois has recently created an
advanced prototype battery using lithiated
manganese that can be recharged in as little as two minutes.
estimated 30 million EVs being sold worldwide in 2011 and further estimated to rise to over 50 million by 2021, when
you include the larger vehicles coming to market using this technological
innovation, the future for the EMM market looks bright indeed, according to a
recent 2011 report by IDTechEx. They also state in
this report that over 90% of the world’s EVs are made in China, mainly
for use in China.
front, researchers at the College of Science and Engineering at the
University of Minnesota have developed an early stage multi-ferroic alloy that converts heat directly into electricity.
This consists of a combination of nickel, cobalt, manganese and tin.
Professor Richard James, who led the research team. he
states, “This research is very promising because it represents a new
method for energy conversion that has never been done before.” They
also state in their report that even though this technology is in the early
stages of development it could potentially be used to capture waste heat from
a vehicles exhaust that would produce electricity for charging batteries in
hybrid cars. Another possibility includes rejected heat from industrial and
power generation plants. This is just one more of the many emerging new
scientific discoveries being made concerning EMM.
example of constant change and innovation in the manganese sector is the new
technology for wind and solar farms grid electrical storage announced this
month by researchers at the DOE Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and
China’s Wuhan University. They have developed a large scale
sodium, ion, manganese oxide battery that is more energy efficient and lower
cost than lithium due to the size and scale of batteries needed to store
large grid scale electricity. This research is still early stage and ongoing.
of Infinite Mineral Deposits & Low Base Metals Prices are Over.
will show the transition that began as we entered the 21st Century. China is
showing us that transition by buying up strategic metals deposits and energy
reserves around the world and other nations will follow suit as time goes on.
It is time for North America to wake up to this stark reality. Its name is “protectionism.”
US is still imposing a 14% import tax on EMM and China is levying a 20%
export tax, South Korea is now dropping its import tariffs on manganese. With
North America having no strategic reserves of EMM, nor any domestic mines,
and China controlling the market by 97% to 98% worldwide, combined with the
fact that 2010 world production of manganese ore stood at 47 million tonnes it seems that the time is ripe for a new player in
the North American domestic EMM production field. We must achieve domestic
production in order to remain globally competitive in the green energy sector
as well as in the many other widespread aspects of EMM usage, especially to
regain competitiveness in the vast steel industry in which the US was the
leader in world production for over 100 years.
stranglehold and dominance of the EMM market truly represents a very serious
supply threat to the rest of the world. We need a long term EMM
‘domestic’ supply chain. A supply chain that is not at the mercy
of a competitor nor a potential adversary. And yet there is one US based and
very large advanced stage EMM mine project in Arizona that potentially could
and can change all that.
Due to the
extensive and advanced stage work currently being accomplished by American
Manganese Inc, (AMY-V) at their Artillery Peak,
Ariz., manganese deposit (current NI-43-101 resource: indicated 6.76
billion pounds and inferred 8.8 billion pounds) the United States Geological
Survey (USGS) and Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) are now showing
substantial renewed interest in the area and project. The AZGS is now
undertaking the remapping and defining of the area’s manganese and
other minerals in the Artillery area. The USGS has termed the Artillery
Peak deposit as the largest low grade manganese deposit in the US in various
reports since the 1940s.
Manganese, subsequent to previous work by US Bureau of Mines, commissioned by
the US governement in WW 2 to exploit
America’s lower grade manganese resources, is now leading the way in
becoming the next and only electrolytic manganese metal producer in the US.
This prior research led to the creation of an operating plant at Three Kids,
Nev. Concurrent with this, the Bureau of Mines created a process for
producing EMM. This process for EMM manufacture is used today in China and
South Africa. A variation of this electrolytic process has now been updated
and revamped through new technology and design for American Manganese by their subcontractor, Kemetco Research Inc., and has already been placed under
US Patent application.
extremely high electrical costs in China and South Africa as well as
depleting domestic supplies of manganese in China, both countries are
producing EMM at or about $1.30 cost p/lb. The current EMM price as of June
was $1.54 p/lb. FOB Rotterdam, $1.80 p/lb. FOB US East Coast (including the
14% import duty). The “Preliminary Economic Assessment”
(PEA) 2009 study completed for American Manganese has a NI-43-101estimated
cost per pound of production @ $0.44.
updated, robust & energy efficient process having been developed by Kemetco and American Manganese, mining EMM is now
entering the realm of “green mining technology” with greater than
90% extraction rates thru low electrical and minimal water usage. The
mining process also ends up with benign toxicity in tailings, which can be
replaced immediately into reclamation areas. A continuous bench scale test
pilot facility is currently being built for further testing of up to 20 tonnes of Artillery Peak manganese oxide ore by Kemetco’s laboratories to further prove this patent
pending, conceptual process. Wardrop, a unit of
Tetra Tech, is currently engaged in preparing the Artillery project
appear that the US is on the threshold of having a potential world class,
domestic supply with a low cost, minimal impact and much needed EMM mining
some time in 2014. This comes at a time in history when EMM finds new large
scale demand in green energy, electronics, specialty steels and aluminum
alloys, not to mention a world with much-neglected old and out-dated
infrastructure needing replacement and upgrading.