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- CRB Fundamentals - 2008 Commodity Articles


Manganese (symbol Mn) is a silvery-white, very brittle, metallic element used primarily in making alloys. Manganese was first distinguished as an element and isolated in 1774 by Johan Gottlieb Gahn. Manganese dissolves in acid and corrodes in moist air.

Manganese is found in the earth's crust in the form of ores such as rhodochrosite, franklinite, psilomelane, and manganite. Pyrolusite is the principal ore of manganese. Pure manganese is produced by igniting pyrolusite with aluminum powder or by electrolyzing manganese sulfate.

Manganese is used primarily in the steel industry for creating alloys, the most important ones being ferromanganese and spiegeleisen. In steel, manganese improves forging and rolling qualities, strength, toughness, stiffness, wear resistance, and hardness. Manganese is also used in plant fertilizers, animal feed, pigments, and dry cell batteries.

Prices - The average monthly price of ferromanganese (high carbon, FOB plant) rose +62.5% yr/yr in 2007 to $1,375.76 per gross ton which was a record high. The 2007 price was three times the 20-year low price of $447.44 per gross ton posted as recently as 2001.

Supply - World production of manganese ore in 2005 (latest data available) rose by +5.0% to 29.1 million metric tons, which was a record high. That was well above the record low of 17.8 million metric tons posted in 1999. The world's largest producers of manganese ore are China with 19% of world production in 2005, South Africa with 16%, Australia with 14%, Brazil with 11%, and the Ukraine with 8%. China's production in 2005 was unchanged from 2004 at 5.5 million metric tons.

Demand - U.S. consumption of manganese ore in 2005 (latest data available) fell 16.6% to 368,000 metric tons, but remained slightly above the record low of 360,000 metric tons posted in 2002. U.S. consumption of ferromanganese in 2005 fell 9.2% yr/yr to 286,000 metric tons, down from the 7-year high of 315,000 metric tons posted in 2004. The 2005 figure is about one-third of the U.S. consumption in the early 1970s.

Trade - The U.S. still relies on imports for 100% of its manganese consumption, as it has since 1985. U.S. imports of manganese ore for consumption in 2005 (latest data available) rose +45.4% yr/yr to 656,000 metric tons. U.S. imports of ferromanganese for consumption in 2005 fell 40.6% yr/yr to 255,000 metric tons, down from last year's 16-year high. U.S. imports of silico-manganese in 2005 fell 22.5% yr/yr to 327,000 metric tons. The primary sources of U.S. imports of manganese ore in 2005 were Gabon with 62% imports, South Africa with 27%, and Australia with 3%.

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