High Purity Manganese
Manganese ore originates as a carbonate, semi-carbonate, or oxide ore. 80-90% of mined supply ore is used in steel and speciality alloys sectors. The global manganese market is circa 20mt per annum of contained manganese. In 2020, the battery grade market represented 0.5% of the total contained manganese consumption.
High Purity Manganese, is produced by a handful of producers globally, with only three companies outside of China, which are all are long established. China supplies over 90% of the High Purity Manganese market.
High Purity Manganese, also known as battery grade manganese, is purchased by cathode and battery manufacturers in either a metal or sulphate form. More specifically, High Purity Electrolytic Manganese Metal (HPEMM) or High Purity Manganese Sulphate Monohydrate (HPMSM).
HPEMM is a 99.99% of contained manganese, low impurity, metal.
HPMSM is a pale pink inorganic compound with typically 32% of contained manganese. The chemical symbol of this low impurity salt is MnSO4·H2O.
High Purity Manganese is used in battery cathodes, speciality steels and aluminium, and chemicals.
The forecast demand for high purity manganese is heavily skewed towards HPMSM, with new capacity coming online demanding HPMSM, not HPEMM.
It is possible to make HPMSM directly from ore (carbonate, semi-carbonate or oxide) as is done in China. Alternatively, HPMSM can be dissolved from EMM. The economic viability of each operation is influenced by a number of factors such as; cost and access to electricity, cost of acid, access to infrastructure, soluble manganese grade, ore impurities and metallurgy.
Traditionally precursor and cathode manufacturers purchased HPEMM and dissolved it in acid to produce HPMSM. This was done to maintain purity levels, however this comes at a significant cost. It is therefore more economical to manufacture HPMSM directly from ore if metallurgically feasible.
The demand for Electric Vehicles (EVs) is rising
Global EV market share is currently around 3%. EV sales as a percentage of the total fleet sales are forecast to continue increasing, reaching almost 30% by 2030 and over 70% by 2040. The coronavirus fallout will impact global automotive sales in the medium-term, however EV sales have been much more robust. The longer-term outlook is strengthened by stimulus programs targeting clean energy initiatives, such as the ban on the sale of internal combustion engine vehicles in California by 2035.
Source: Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, August 2020
Battery Production Growth is led by China
Regional demand, defined by Gigafactory capacity, is currently being lead by, and will continue to be led by China. However, capacity growth in Europe and North America is also strong.
On a per-Gigafactory basis, Chinese growth dominates that of any other region over the next decade.
Where is the Manganese in Batteries?
Here are several types of cathode chemistries currently used. However, the prevailing cathode chemistry is the manganese containing NCM cathode battery.
As the demand for EVs increases, it is forecast that the market share for the manganese-bearing NCM cathode chemistry increases from ~45% in 2020 to over 75% by the end of the decade.
Initiatives to reduce cobalt in cathodes may also in turn have a further positive impact on high purity manganese.
Source: Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, August 2020.
Where is the Supply of High Purity Manganese?
Going forward current producers will need to expand, or new entrants will be needed, to meet forecast demand requirements for high purity manganese from the battery industry.