Towards the end of 2016, manganese ore prices surged in response to a sharp drawdown of industry stock levels. These reflected substantial production cutbacks brought about by low prices over the previous year, in combination with logistical problems in South Africa and a resurgence of demand from China. In 2017, ore prices have remained high which has, in turn, supported elevated manganese alloy prices. Ore prices remaining so high has taken the market by surprise as fundamentals no longer appear to justify such prices. While companies were, at first, reluctant to bring high-cost production back on line, sustained high prices have boosted confidence and supply has increased substantially.
Because of high ore prices, output in South Africa looks set to exceed its previous peak level (~14Mt, seen in 2014) by at least 10%. Australian output has also risen substantially in 2017 due to the restart of the Woodie Woodie and Bootu Creek mines, and additional output is also flowing from other key producing countries such as Ghana, where ConsMin has doubled output over the past two years.
Manganese demand will continue to track the development of world steel production, though the use of manganese per tonne of steel has been on a declining trend in recent years. Global steel output remains unexpectedly buoyant at the moment, underpinned by surprisingly strong Chinese crude steel output. Nonetheless, with Chinese crude steel output expected to stabilise over the medium term, and with manganese ore and alloy production currently increasing strongly, Roskill believes there is scope for the manganese market to move into oversupply which should provoke an overdue correction in prices.
Roskill’s new report contains a 10-year outlook for supply, demand and prices making it essential reading for those looking for a comprehensive analysis of future trends in the manganese sector. The report also considers the impact that lithium-ion battery demand and resultant demand for manganese sulphate will have on market dynamics.