Manganese: Q1 production results and rising demand

Manganese

Vale of Brazil has reported Q1 2019 manganese ore output of 365kt, 26% lower than production in Q4 2018. The decline was said to be a result of ‘usual weather-related seasonality at Mina do Azul, as well as lower productivity at Urucum’. Sales of manganese ore totalled 252kt in Q1, a 43% fall on the previous quarter, mainly due to ‘lower production and the impact of heavy rains, which affected São Luís port shipments’. It should be noted that Vale’s manganese ore mines are intertwined with the company’s vast iron ore mining operation, both in terms of the location of the mines and the transportation infrastructure. Vale’s Q1 manganese alloy production, meanwhile, was reported to be 41kt (similar to Q4), while ferroalloy sales totalled 25kt (a 31% fall on Q4) as a result of a ‘margin over volume strategy’.

Elsewhere, Comilog increased its manganese ore production in Gabon by 14% to 1Mt in Q1 compared to Q1 2018, in line with its production target of 4.5Mt for 2019. Its ore shipments increased by 27% to 996kt and its external sales volumes increased by 13% to 776kt. In Q1 2018, the company’s shipments had been negatively impacted by the derailment of an ore train.

Roskill view

Demand for manganese remained robust though Q1 as a result of the strength of global steel production, notably in China. Steel accounts for 93% of manganese demand. Global crude steel output in Q1 2019 rose by 4.2% year-on-year; Chinese output increased by 9.5% year-on-year. Manganese demand has also been boosted by the stricter rebar standards which came into force in China last year.

Production of manganese ore has been high over the last year, in response to high prices and robust demand. After falling at the start of the year, manganese ore stocks in Chinese ports have now stabilised at around 3.2Mt at the end of Q1.

Roskill’s NEW Manganese: Global Industry, Markets & Outlook report will be published in July 2019.