Manganese in Australia

Manganese in Australia

Australia is the second-biggest manganese producer after China, with yearly production of around 5 million tonnes of beneficiated manganese. Its exports of the metal are valued at about $1 billion annually, according to Geoscience Australia, and the US Geological Survey notes that it has the fourth-largest reserves of manganese in the world. 

That said, Australia has a fairly short history of manganese mining. The metal was first discovered in the country in 1803, but it was not mined until 1966. Currently, Groote Eylandt, a world-class manganese deposit located in the Northern Territory, is the center of most manganese mining activity in Australia.

Challenges in Australian manganese mining

Last year, the Northern Territory’s government banned seabed mining around Groote Eylandt, in part due to pressure from the local indigenous community, as per ABC. The ban stopped an extensive project that had been proposed by Northern Manganese (ASX:GOT). While Chief Minister Adam Giles spoke of possible compensation, Doug Daws, chairman of Northern Manganese, was not interested.

“We don’t want compensation, we want to get on with the job,” Daws told the news outlet. “But if we’ve got to go down the path of compensation, it’s difficult to comprehend just how much that would end up costing both our company and the Northern Territory government.”

Such tension between manganese miners and local indigenous groups is not uncommon in Australia. A similar incident occurred in late 2013, when OM Manganese, a subsidiary of OM Holdings (ASX:OMH), was found guilty of desecrating an Aboriginal sacred site, The Australian states. The company was found to have caused a “horizontal arm” of rock to break, reducing its sacredness and spiritual connection to the land’s traditional owners and inhabitants.

“The company never intended to harm, damage or disrespect the sacred site,” OM Holdings CEO Peter Toth told The Australian. “We sincerely regret the damage and the hurt caused and I unreservedly apologize to the site’s custodians and traditional owners.”

Despite that apology, OM Manganese was found to have favored business and profit over its obligation to protect the sacred site where it was operating. The company was ultimately fined $150,000.

Australia’s manganese miners

While challenges certainly exist in terms of manganese mining and exploration in Australia, many companies have managed to thrive. Here’s a look at three of them:

BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP,NYSE:BHP,LSE:BLT)

BHP Billiton, a huge player in Australian mining, as well as worldwide, operates a manganese mine at Groote Eylandt. It uses open-cut strip mining methods at the site, which produces more than 15 percent of the world’s high-grade manganese ore.

The company also controls Australia’s only manganese ferroalloy plant; it produces ferromanganese, silicomanganese and sinter.

Anglo American (LSE:AAL)

Anglo American, another major mining company, operates a manganese mine in Groote Eylandt as well. It also owns the Tasmanian Electro Metallurgical Company at Bell Bay, where the ferroalloy plant mentioned above is located.

Anglo American’s other manganese projects are in South Africa and South America. The company operates in Africa, Brazil, Chile, North and South America, Australia, China, India, Japan and other countries in Asia and Europe.

Shaw River Manganese (ASX:SRR)

Shaw River Manganese is a junior exploration and development company with projects in Ghana and Namibia as well as Australia. Its Dingo Creek project, south of Newman in Western Australia, is prospective for manganese and iron and is comprised of two license applications on the western side of the Ullawarra mineral deposit. .

Other producers have had great success at Ullawarra, and Shaw River expects to fare just as well. Preliminary exploration indicates manganese mineralization as well as iron occurring at 58.7 percent.

 

Related reading: 

Manganese in South America