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Comment Processing & Handling

U.S. production is scheduled for a critical metal

By Gerald Parkinson |

China produces about 98% of the world’s electrolytic manganese metal (EMM), a vital ingredient used in specialty steels, aluminum and electronics. In contrast, the U.S. produces no EMM, says Nick Weir, an executive with U.S. American Manganese Inc. (AMY; White Rock, B.C., Canada; www.american manganeseinc.com). AMY plans to change that by using a patented hydrometallurgical process to extract the metal from its Artillery Peak Manganese Properties in northwestern Arizona. The company expects to produce EMM for $0.44/lb, versus $0.98/lb in China. Like the Chinese processes, AMY’s method is a modified and updated version of technology developed by the U.S. Government in World War II. The Arizona deposit consists of low-grade oxide material (2–7 wt.% Mn) that contains pyrolusite (MnO2), psilomelane and other four-valent Mn oxides. High-grade oxide ore is typically subjected to high-temperature roasting to render the Mn leachable by sulfuric acid for electrolysis, but this is not economical for lower-grade material, says Weir. No roasting is required for AMY’s process, in which ore is leached in sulfurous acid (rather than sulfuric) in a stirred tank, followed by the removal of impurities. Aluminum, arsenic, most…
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