Manganese: The Wasted Opportunity

May 2021

Manganese is a critical metal used in many different industries. It is a byproduct of mining the other metals, such as copper and iron, from which it must be separated before being used. Manganese demand has steadily increased as the world's economies have grown; however, challenges remain for both producers and consumers. This article discusses those difficulties and suggests some ways to overcome them.

Manganese is an element that's essential for human health and the production of many other important materials, such as steel. The Earth's crust is thought to have less than one percent manganese in it, so it needs to be mined from primary sources. Manganese demand has been rising over time due to increased global population and increasing technology use. On top of this, the mining process for manganese is not only expensive but leaves behind a lot of waste material that can't be reused. This creates a huge environmental challenge.

This post will give you an overview on how Manganese is mined today and what we need to do in order to keep up with the demand while also solving these challenges.

History of manganese mining

Manganese is a chemical element that was discovered more than two thousand years ago. However, its use in the production of steel and other materials wasn't recognized until the late nineteenth century. This is when it was first mined on a large scale in South Africa. The total annual manganese output back in 1900 was around 150,000 tons, which is equivalent to around eight million tons today – although there's far less demand for manganese at the time. Since then, it's been mined from all over the world, with China and Australia being two of the largest producers. Manganese ore is mostly mined from what are called sediment-hosted deposits (SEDEX). These are ore deposits found in sedimentary rocks, which are often characterized by a few things:

They often have higher amounts of metals because they've been through weathering and moved by water or wind.

They're formed in areas where they would be covered up from the outside world, which makes them harder to find – especially if you don't know where to look.

These properties make sediment-hosted deposits relatively rare when compared to other ore types. However, estimates show that there could be around three trillion tons of manganese buried as sediment-hosted deposits. This means that there's still a lot of untapped resources left for mining companies.

How is manganese mined?

Manganese can be found in a large number of ores. However, they tend to be more concentrated in sediment-hosted deposits. These deposits are found beneath the Earth's surface and are often part of a sedimentary rock structure. The main source of manganese that we use today is pyritic manganese ores (PMO). This ore is mined from areas where they have high levels of pyritic minerals (typically pyrites) and low levels of other chemical compounds that would make them less desirable as a resource for mining as well as being contaminated by them. As you can see, this means that high operating costs are required for PMO mining operations.

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