Remember that Simpsons episode with the fake educational video where the kid wishes he could live in a world without zinc? Boy did he regret that. So before you go wishing we could live in a world without manganese, you might want to at least get the details on the metal. Oh, and surprise, it's been soaring:
Nowadays we appear hardened to trebling or even quadrupling of prices in a single year such is the bull market that has prevailed this decade. So as the price of manganese has doubled in the last 12 months maybe we can be forgiven for not having taken too much notice.
That would be a mistake, however, because manganese is not some minor alloying element that can be easily substituted, it is widely used as both an alloying element and as a crucial additive in steel production. Whether it is as manganese ore, as ferro- manganese or as silico-manganese, the US imports virtually all of its manganese. It is considered a strategic metal by the US government. 80% of the world’s known manganese reserves are in just two countries, South Africa and the Ukraine. Currently 60% of the world’s production comes from just three, South Africa, China and the Ukraine – is this sounding vulnerable to a possible disruption? It certainly is.
As hot as manganese is:
No new mines are on the near term horizon even though the uses to which the metal is now being put reads like a list of “all the growth areas” – low nickel stainless steel, high strength structural manganese steels, aluminum alloys, not just dry cell and alkaline batteries but also lithium-ion batteries for the new breed of hybrid cars. Existing miners are scrambling to raise output but it’s debatable if they are going to be able to keep pace with demand without new mines.
And did you know that we need to be getting manganese in our diets? Yep. It's found in nuts and green vegetables and all the healthy stuff, at least according to this site. It's also found in beer at trace levels, but you don't need that much!