Project Blue reflections on the IMnI conference in Oman

News Analysis




Project Blue reflections on the IMnI conference in Oman

Project Blue joined the International Manganese Institute (IMnI) in Muscat for its 48th Annual Conference.

The manganese industry is closely monitoring the regional economic performance of its major markets, given that over 90% of manganese consumption is tied to steel production. While key future growth is anticipated in the battery sector, current interest is primarily focused on China's steel performance, topped with the future potential of India's market.

For the first time at an IMnI conference, there was a whole session dedicated to batteries. South Manganese gave an overview of the supply chain in China, highlighting plans to build out new capacity for manganese-bearing LMFP. Umicore presented an overview of their battery plans and market dynamics, as well as a detailed update on future production of HLM. Project Blue gave an overview of key cathode trends and reflected on the future impact on manganese demand and supply. The key message from the session was that an understanding of regional cathode dynamics is essential and will, inter alia, shape regional raw material demand and supply. The question remains as to what extent an ex-China supply chain for HP MSM will be developed but there is increasing appetite in diversifying global supply not only from policy makers but also market participants. 

Back to the larger manganese markets on the second day of the conference, the focus turned to steel developments and specifically to the suspension of the South32 GEMCO mine in Australia, which is a key high-grade source of manganese. The removal of the GEMCO mine has added an upside to manganese ore prices, which have remained subdued in the face of the structural changes in China mentioned above and port stocks at record high levels. The impacts of the GEMCO mine will require material from a variety of sources to meet demand and the drawing down of port stocks will play a key role. South32 has announced plans to restart mining, with the return of significant material to the market depending on the refurbishment of the port. As the GEMCO mine is also approaching end-of-life, the current disruption offers a unique opportunity to look into the crystal ball on forecasting impacts to the market once this significant supply is removed from the market.

We heard about continued delay in steel recovery stretching into 2024 and the outlook for the industry preparing for the structural changes following Chinese peak steel production, with bleak expectations for its domestic alloy industry. Although speakers from China indicated that the capacity in China will be able to support the global market, pointing towards an awareness for surplus capacity needing to turn to international markets, or face consolidation or conversion to other alloys. This changes the focus to India’s steel ambitions, with the country Vision 2040 setting our plans to represent the next growth period. Please see the link to a previous article from Project Blue on India’s Vision 2047 for details.

Project Blue’s inaugural Ferroalloys Conference in Johannesburg held in September later this year in partnership with MySteel in China and BigMint in India will bring the discussions these topics within the broader alloy context to the mining heartland of South Africa. Please reach out to find out more and how you can get involved.