For a long time, South Africa has hinged its prosperity on gold, and the development and economic prosperity of the province of Gauteng is testimony to this fact. Recent decades, however, have seen production of this metal wane dramatically. South Africa is a country that is rich in mineral wealth, and the nation is awakening to the economic benefits to be found in that diversity. Manganese is a universal and widely used mineral essential for an enormous range of industries and sectors, particularly in the future economy. Having enjoyed significant local growth in production and sales over the last decade, manganese is now affirming itself as the leader of South Africa’s mineral renaissance, says United Manganese of Kalahari (UMK).

Image supplied by United Manganese of Kalahari

Image supplied by United Manganese of Kalahari

Africa’s manganese deposits are in the Northern Cape, where the manganese mining industry is the province’s major economic driver. In 2022, the manganese mining industry employed over 14 500 South Africans and generated more than R7-billion in tax revenue. The industry has also contributed more than R47-billion export earnings to the country’s foreign exchange reserves over the last 12 months.

The Northern Cape is well-positioned to capitalise on the growing international demand for manganese, as the province has abundant manganese resources in addition to a skilled workforce which has a long history of mining manganese. It is also noteworthy that the rise in demand for manganese is also sure to boost South Africa’s copper industry, as manganese and copper are complementary minerals that are frequently used together.

Manganese is a crucial element in the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries, such as those used in electrical backup systems and electric vehicles. Recent years have seen a dramatic rise in demand for electric vehicles all over the world, and South Africa is perfectly positioned to respond to that need.

According to UMK, analysts estimate that the demand for manganese in lithium-ion batteries will increase by an average of 10% per year over the next decade, and South Africa’s manganese ore production is expected to concomitantly reach about 50% of the world’s additional manganese ore output over this period.

Manganese-rich cathode materials are also being developed to boost the efficiency of electric vehicles. This, in turn, will increase the demand for the metal. In addition to its use in batteries, manganese is essential to producing several other green power technologies.

However, the versatility of this metal extends even beyond the power industry. As an alloying element, it is essential in various types of steel production (often together with copper), and services the food processing, agricultural, chemical, construction, medical and aircraft industries. Further enhancing its reputation as a green-friendly mineral is that it can also treat wastewater and extract pollutants from soil and air, per UMK.

The local manganese industry is keenly aware, however, that these exciting opportunities come with their attendant responsibilities. Primarily, there is the need to support local communities by providing jobs and training opportunities. Both the government and the mining industry are investing in new technologies to support the growth of the manganese industry. This will not only improve South Africa’s operational efficiency and competitiveness in this field but will also enhance environmental sustainability, says the company.

Given the sudden acceleration of green power strategies in the developed west, the manganese industry is set to provide increasing opportunities for employment and economic growth in the Northern Cape, thus playing the role that gold had done in Johannesburg’s formative years. This will benefit not solely the manganese mining industry but the province, thus boosting the country’s overall economic prospects. UMK concludes that South Africa is indeed fortunate to be well positioned in this space where it has both the material and operational capacity to rise to the demands of a rapidly changing world.

Source: Supplied by United Manganese of Kalahari, edited by Sharyn Macnamara


  1. Statistica

About United Manganese of Kalahari (UMK):

United Manganese of Kalahari is a South African mining company, operating on the Kalahari manganese field in the John Taole Gaetsewe District Municipality in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa.

The Kalahari manganese field is regarded as the largest manganese ore deposit globally. The field extends continuously in a north-western direction, for a distance of 34km from Mamatwan Mine in the south to the Wessels and Black Rock Mines in the North.

UMK is a company operating in a manganese-based economy with exposure to the export market. It is strategically located with good access to rail infrastructure, rapid load-out and export facilities.