SHANGHAI, Dec 27 (SMM) – This is a roundup of highlights across China's manganese industrial chain for 2018.
Manganese ore imports continue to grow
Growing imports of manganese ore continued to buoy supplies of raw materials in 2018, even as environmental issues weighed on domestic production. Imports of manganese ore reached 22.08 million mt in January-October, compared to 21.26 million mt of total imports in 2017. This is likely to increase ore supplies by 15% year on year in 2018, SMM expects.
For 2019-2021, downstream demand from smelters is likely to extend the increase in ore imports. High demand, together with weak bargaining power domestically, will attract more manganese miners outside major production countries to deliver cargoes to the Chinese market.
Output of manganese oxide ore shrinks further
Environmental and safety inspections hampered production across medium-sized and small manganese oxide miners in 2018. Even with high profits in the steel industry and as November’s new rebar standard buoyed demand for silicon-manganese alloy, sufficient supplies and higher quality of imported ore narrowed shares of domestic manganese oxide ore.
SMM expects the downward trend in manganese oxide ore industry to continue in the next three years. There are only several licensed, large manganese oxide miners currently.
Supplies of manganese carbonate ore remains tight
In May-October, rectification works suspended all manganese mines in Songtao of Guizhou province. Those miners resumed gradually at the end of the year, while safety issues kept miners in Huayuan of Hunan province offline from April to the end of the year. This limited supplies and lowered grades of manganese carbonate ore in the market.
Rising costs support manganese prices
Higher costs across manganese smelters, up from some 10,500 yuan/mt a year ago to an average 12,000 yuan/mt, supported prices of manganese through 2018.
Most of this year saw either oversupply or a supply-demand balance, except for the period when maintenance at a major Ningxia plant and suspension in Songtao buoyed prices. This kept average prices of manganese below the 13,000 yuan/mt level.
Higher prices push commission of silicon-manganese alloy capacity in H2
New, expanded capacity of silicon-manganese alloy in 2018 was mostly located in northern plants, including Inner Mongolia Huade County Tiancheng Ferroalloy, Jilin Ferroalloy (Fengzhen project), and Ulanqab Xiongwei Guangda New Materials. In the south, three large submerged-arc furnaces commissioned at Chongqing Dalang Metallurgical New Materials.
There is further expansion of silicon-manganese alloy capacity planned in the first half of 2019. This is likely to cause a supply glut in the market, which was well-supplied by the end of 2018.
Expanding ternary cathode market grow manganese sulphate output
More orders from downstream ternary precursor producers, amid a booming ternary cathode market, bolstered the production of high-purity manganese sulphate in 2018. An SMM survey found that domestic output of high-purity manganese sulphate rose 25.7% from 2017, to 93,000 mt in 2018.
Some downstream plants established processing and recycling lines for high-purity manganese sulphate, which also contributed to the overall higher production.
Even with significant new capacity coming online, we do not expect an oversupply in 2019 as the downstream ternary precursor sector continues to grow. Greater downstream demand mostly went to major producers of manganese sulphate, who adjusted production based on orders.
Rising lithium manganese oxide output to grow demand for electrolytic manganese dioxide
Growing demand for rechargeable batteries is expected to expand demand for electrolytic manganese dioxide (EMD). About 45,000 mt of EMD is estimated to be used to produce lithium manganese oxide (LMO) in 2018, up 5,000 mt from 2017, SMM data showed. EMD demand from the LMO sector is set to continue to grow in anticipation of steady LMO output growth in 2019-2021.
EMD is traditionally used in the non-rechargeable battery sector, like common dry cells and alkaline batteries. SMM estimates that EMD consumption in the non-rechargeable battery sector will account for some 60% of China’s total EMD consumption, including exports, in 2018. Excluding exports, the proportion would rise to 75-80%.
Demand for manganese (II, III) oxide is also likely to receive a boost from the high-end LMO cathode material sector. Demand for Mn3O4 is traditionally supported by the soft magnetic material sector.
While the soft magnetic material sector will remain a major driver for consumption of manganese (II, III) oxide, developments in the lithium-ion battery and pigment sectors are also likely to help expand the market.
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