Manganese (Mn) is the twelfth most abundant element in the Earth's crust. Amonst about 300 minerals containing manganese only about a dozen are of economic significance. The two main manganese minerals are pyrolusite (MnO2) and rhodochrosite (MnCO3). Manganese is the fourth most used metal in terms of tonnage after iron, aluminium and copper and 90% of all manganese consumed annually goes into steel as an alloying agent. No satisfactory substitute for manganese has been identified which combines a relatively low price with outstanding technical benefits such as the ability to combine with sulphur and the powerful de-oxidation capacity. After steel the second most important market for manganese, in the form of electrolytic manganese dioxide (EMD), is that of dry cell batteries. Manganese is also an important alloying element in aluminium and copper and is also used in plant fertilisers and animal feeds and is a colorant.
In Australia, there are three operating mines and one tailings re-treatment plant. The Woodie Woodie mine is located about 400 kilometres (km) south east of Port Hedland in Western Australia (WA). A manganese tailings processing plant also operates near the Woodie Woodie mine. The Northern Territory has two manganese mines with one being located on Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria and the other located at Bootu Creek 110 km north of Tennant Creek.
Australia's sole manganese ore processing plant is operated by TEMCO at Bell Bay in Tasmania (Tas).
In 2012, Australia's Economic Demonstrated Resources (EDR) of manganese ore decreased by 5% to 187 million tonnes (Mt), mainly because of a fall in EDR at Groote Eylandt and Bootu Creek. Paramarginal Resources (PMR) remained unchanged at 23.1 Mt and Submarginal Resources (SBM) also remained unchanged at 167 Mt. Inferred Resources increased by 3.6% to 324 Mt, due to the announcement of an Inferred Resource at the Contact deposit in WA.
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All manganese ore EDR (186.8 Mt) is accessible. The resource life (resource to production ratio) is about 13 years at current rates of production of beneficiated manganese ore.
Manganese ore Joint Ore Reserve Committee (JORC) Code reserves are 135.4 Mt (72% of accessible EDR). The resource life based on JORC reserves, and at the current rate of production of beneficiated manganese ore, is about 9 years.
Data associated with exploration expenditure for manganese are not published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on either a State or National basis.
The Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE) reported that Australia produced 7.2 Mt of beneficiated manganese ore in 2012 (7.0 Mt 2011). The total tonnage of manganese ore mined is approximately twice the tonnage of beneficiated manganese ore produced because of yields of around 50% after beneficiation. Exports of manganese ores for 2012 totalled 6.7 Mt valued at $1204 million compared to 6.9 Mt valued at $1369 million in 2011.
Australia has 11% of the world's EDR of manganese ore and is ranked fifth behind the Ukraine (25%), South Africa (20%), Brazil (15%) and China (14%). Australia produces 15% of the world's manganese ore and is ranked third behind China (31%) and South Africa (16%).
GEMCO: The US$279 million GEMCO Expansion Phase 2 was approved in July 2011 and commenced in 2012. This will increase the beneficiated manganese capacity at Groote Eylandt to 4.8 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) from 4.2 Mtpa. The expansion will also create 1.1 Mtpa additional capacity for future expansions by addressing infrastructure constraints by increasing road and port capacity.
OM Holdings Ltd: The company's Bootu Creek plant has the capacity to produce 1 Mtpa annually, and 2012 resulted in the production of 738 kilotonnes (kt) which represents a decrease of 18% on 2011. The fall in production was caused by a transition of operations and rail service disruptions.
TEMCO: In February 2012, BHP Billiton announced a 90 day suspension of operations at its manganese alloy smelter in Bell Bay. The plant reopened in May and was back to full production by the end of August.
Consolidated Minerals Ltd: The Woodie Woodie Manganese mine is located approximately 400 km southeast of Port Hedland in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The Woodie Woodie product has high manganese content and very low phosphorus, while having very low degradation and high thermal stability.
Mesa Minerals Ltd: The Ant Hill and Sunday Hill projects are located 400 km south of Port Hedland. Both mines remained on care and maintenance throughout 2012.
Montezuma Mining Company Ltd: The Butcherbird Manganese project is located 120 km south of Newman. A scoping study was conducted into the development of a mine with capacity to produce up to 1 Mtpa with a mine life of at least 10 years. The study showed excellent potential for the commercial development of the Butcherbird manganese project.