1. China has cut manganese alloy exports in recent years, following the imposition of a 20% export tax in 2009, making the country more self-sufficient. But several other major steel producing regions, including the USA, Europe and Japan, still import on a large scale.
2. Five new manganese alloy projects are due to come on stream in Asia over the next two years, including three major projects in Malaysia. These are likely to threaten Indian production due to Malaysia’s cheap ore, labour and electricity. Other new projects are expected in China and Indonesia.
3. Manganese alloy production has been growing significantly over the past few years, according to the IMnI. Silico-manganese output in India and CIS have seen particularly strong growth. Prices have fallen significantly, with cheap manganese alloy supplies becoming abundant.
4. Global supply of high-carbon ferro-manganese reached 4.9 million tonnes in 2014, up 9% from 2013. Demand reached 4.97 million tonnes, up 5% year-on-year.
5. Global refined ferro-manganese production reached 1.84 million tonnes in 2014, up 7.3% from 2013, while demand was 1.86 million tonnes, up 7.7% from 2013.
6. But while Indian and CIS silico-manganese volumes have been rising, world silico-manganese supply has dropped over the past year. Global silico-manganese supply in 2014 reached 12.8 million tonnes, down 4.3% year-on-year, compared with a global demand of 13.2 million tonnes in 2014, down 2.5% from 2013.
7. Slowing demand from the construction sector, high electricity tariffs in southern China, and stricter environmental regulations, have meant that excess stocks of silico-manganese in China have been declining in 2015.
8. China is the world’s largest producer of manganese ore on a gross weight basis. But the country has mostly low-grade (18-20% manganese) ore reserves, so it is only the second biggest producer of manganese ore on a metal contained basis, after South Africa. Gabon, Australia and Brazil are also major producers of high-grade ore.
9. China’s manganese ore production has stabilised at around 4.14 million tonnes, meeting around 40% of the country’s demand in 2014. The gap is filled by imports, mainly from South Africa, Australia, Gabon and Ghana. China has the potential to produce more manganese ore but at the moment, given the low price of imported ore, there is no incentive to produce increased volumes.
10. Aloys d’Harambure, market research manager at IMnI, offered advice on how to survive the tough period before the markets become more balanced. He said that manganese alloys mills should:
- use competitively priced raw materials
- seek to minimise power costs via renegotiations, captive generation, effective utilisation, etc.
- strategically plan production of manganese products that will be in demand
- be compliant with applicable regulations, either domestic or abroad.
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