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E25 explores Butcherbird restart amid record high manganese ore prices

11th June 2024

By: Mariaan Webb

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

     

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Australia’s Element25 is investigating the potential restart of operations at the Butcherbird manganese project in Western Australia to capitalise on the recent surge in manganese ore prices.

Prices have escalated following disruptions at South32’s Groote Eylandt (Gemco) operations in the Northern Territory. Typically producing over six-million tonnes a year of high-grade manganese, the Groote Eylandt mine has faced disruptions owing to damage to its haul road and shiploading facilities from a tropical cyclone in March. This damage is expected to impact supply for at least a year.

Element25 cites the loss of supply from Gemco, combined with post-election uncertainty in South Africa, as factors contributing to the significant and rapid increase in manganese ore prices. As a result, manganese ore prices have soared to a four-year high of $8.30 per dry metric tonne for 44% cif Tianjin, China.

To meet the high demand, Element25 is considering selling lower grade stockpiles that were previously unprofitable at lower prices but could now be profitable at current higher prices. Additionally, run-of-mine stockpiles, which have been mined but not yet processed, are available on site.

“A potential restart requires several critical steps regarding operational readiness and an assessment of restart and production costs, and it is not guaranteed that this will be commercially feasible in the immediate term. However, E25’s board believes it is a unique opportunity that should be explored,” the company said in a statement.

E25 suspended Butcherbird production in early 2024 during a period of depressed ore prices while readying for an upgrade of facilities to achieve nominal 1.1-million-tonne-a-year manganese concentrate production.

The expansion of Butcherbird production aligns with E25’s strategy to produce high-purity manganese sulphate monohydrate at a facility planned to be built in Louisiana, US, in partnership with global automakers General Motors and Stellantis.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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