JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – South Africa is not getting what it should out of its world-leading manganese endowment, says Menar MD Vuslat Bayoğlu.
Bayoğlu believes that the current marketing approach needs to be reviewed.
He would like to see manganese marketing taking its cue from iron-ore marketing to ensure that South Africa benefits more from manganese. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)
Menar expects to be awarded a water-use licence in the second quarter of 2020 for its East Manganese project, in the Northern Cape.
The company’s move into manganese – from its controlling and management positions in Canyon Coal, Zululand Anthracite Colliery and Kangra Coal – is part of its strategic diversification into minerals and metals beyond coal.
Last year, the hands-on investment company acquired East Manganese through its mining development subsidiary Sitatunga Resources.
Amid the high temperatures and open spaces of the Northern Cape, the move into manganese is now also presenting potential renewable-energy possibilities – but the drastic fall in the price of manganese is of major concern.
“It’s a big issue. It’s something South Africa has to talk about, because 18 months ago the manganese price was $8.5/manganese unit, which is about $285/t. Today, it’s even less than $100/t – it’s $2.5/manganese unit.
“Most of the manganese mines, especially medium- and small-sized mines, are unprofitable. They’re losing.
“Manganese is a critical mineral in steel-making and also in battery-making. So, actually we can do better in manganese, by understanding the markets, and not flooding the markets,” says Bayoğlu, who would like to diversify further into manganese.
“Because we’re in manganese now and we’ve got land in the Northern Cape, we might consider putting solar panels in the Northern Cape and then having a ‘wheeling’ agreement with Eskom to send power to Middelburg or Delmas or Bronkhorstspruit,” he says.
Through ‘wheeling’ – the transportation of electricity from within an electrical grid – the company could distribute solar power to its coal centres in Mpumalanga, where the lack of land for the positioning of solar panels put paid to an earlier study into the feasibility of building a 3 MW renewables plant in Middelburg.
“These are the things that we’re discussing among ourselves, about what can we do to have our mines use renewable energy,” he tells Mining Weekly Online.
Menar also has a nickel/cobalt project in Turkey and is considering copper projects in South Africa and in the Democratic Republic of Congo.