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Manganese preferred for diversification efforts

18th June 2021

By: Marleny Arnoldi

Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

     

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While the thermal coal and anthracite market fundamentals remain strong for now, coal-focused mining investment firm Menar intends to diversify its commodity base, particularly as metals supporting green economies come to the fore.

Menar launched its first manganese mine last month. The R300-million project is a 14 ha openpit in Hotazel, in the Northern Cape.

The 30 000 t/m operation will serve as a starting point for the company to get familiar with operating manganese assets, but its experience in coal, another bulk commodity, makes it well versed in the logistical aspects of moving bulk material and the nature of opencast mining.

Menar chairperson Mpumelelo Mkhabela tells Mining Weekly that Menar has been focused on thermal coal “for quite some time”, and it still comprises the majority of the company’s investment portfolio; however, looking at the future growth prospects of the group, Menar decided it is best to diversify its asset base.

“Given our high exposure to coal, we wanted to start exploring the global fundamentals. We considered several trends that could support us in our diversification efforts, such as commodities catering to infrastructure booms taking place in Covid-19 economic recovery efforts.

“East Asian countries, Europe and Africa are rebuilding their economies while going greener. Infrastructure seems to be the key driver for governments to reignite recoveries,” he says, adding that infrastructure requires commodities, such as steel, which, in turn, demands manganese.

Another trend that Menar considered is the global drive towards decarbonisation. “We do not seek to divest from coal; however, we want to pursue minerals that help decarbonisation efforts, such as those that are used in the manufacture of batteries,” Mkhabela points out.

He mentions that solar and wind farms, which are key means of decarbonisation in terms of energy generation, also require huge amounts of steel during the construction phase, for which manganese is a key input.

Reflecting on the devastation of economies after World War Two, and what followed after as a result of post-war economic reconstruction, Mkhabela says Menar believes that the world is following a similar path.

“There will be major reconstruction and major reignition of economies around the world, and the fundamentals support minerals such as copper, chrome and manganese.”

Mkhabela says the company is considering the acquisition of a major manganese project within the next six to twelve months, as well as the development of more collieries.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor

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