Brazil’s Tech Metals: Manganese and Vanadium

Date: Aug 28, 2018

Both manganese and vanadium are increasingly being viewed as leading-edge metals for battery production.

Brazil’s vast resource-rich landscape and newly revised mining regulations are attracting increased foreign investment in the exploration and production of both of these high-tech metals.

From industrial-strength steel to renewable-energy battery technology

Traditionally key industrial metals in the production of steel, manganese and vanadium are quickly becoming critical materials for a new age in energy, playing a significant role in advancing battery technology from electric vehicles (EVs) to large energy-storage systems.

In today’s emerging green-energy economy, manganese is used in the production of batteries for portable devices, EVs and for other renewable-energy applications, including electricity grid storage such as Tesla’s (NASDAQ:TSLA) Powerwall batteries. Lithium manganese oxide batteries, notable for their high thermal stability and safety over other lithium-ion battery types, are widely used in medical equipment, power tools, laptops and electric bikes.

In the EV industry, the metal is key to the production of lithium manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) batteries. With a cathode chemistry ratio of 60 percent nickel, 20 percent manganese and 20 percent cobalt, the raw material cost is lower than that of other lithium-ion battery chemistries. The reduced charging time and longer lifespan compared to the more commonly used nickel cobalt aluminum (NCA) batteries has EV makers like Tesla and others considering making a switch.

In 2016, Tesla signed a five-year partnership with Dr. Jeff Dahn of Dalhousie University, a prominent NMC battery researcher. Other large purchasers of new battery technology shifting to NMC batteries include 3M (NYSE:MMM), BMW (ETR:BMW), General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) and Duracell.

Manganese is also used in nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries and lithiated manganese dioxide (LMD) batteries. NiMH batteries are used in hybrid vehicles, including the Toyota Prius. Comprised of 61 percent manganese and 4 percent lithium, LMD batteries have higher power output and better thermal stability, making them safer than traditional lithium-ion batteries. LMD batteries are currently used in the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf EVs.

Vanadium has also emerged as high-performing energy material. While lithium-ion batteries are popular in EVs, the longer lifecycle and unlimited rechargeability of vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs) makes them ideal for large-scale energy-storage systems. Large-scale energy storage is key to solving the intermittency problems associated with renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, allowing for around-the-clock reliability. The global market for large-scale energy-storage systems, including VRFBs, is projected to grow at a CAGR of 18 percent over the next six years to reach $7.45 billion by 2024.

Brazil a global supplier of manganese and vanadium

In Brazil, one of the most resource-rich nations, both manganese and vanadium can be found in abundance. The South American country is home to the world’s third-largest manganese reserves (116 million tonnes) and is the fifth-largest producer with output of 1.2 million tonnes of the metal in 2017. Major miner Vale (NYSE:VALE) is Brazil’s largest manganese producer, accounting for 70 percent of its market, with the majority of that production coming from the Azul mine in the northern state of Pará.

Brazil also ranks fourth in global vanadium production, putting out 8,400 million tonnes in 2017. Largo Resources (TSX:LGO), the country’s largest vanadium producer, holds the Maracas Menchen mine — the highest-grade vanadium mine in the world — located in Bahia state. The company, which supplies high-purity vanadium flake and powder for the battery market, is looking to a production total of up to 9,950 tonnes of vanadium pentoxide for 2018.

Exploration and development opportunities

Rising global demand for energy metals such as manganese and vanadium is bringing junior resource companies to seek out what Brazil has to offer. Maxtech Ventures (CSE:MVT,FWB:M1N,OTCMKTS:MTHEF) has secured both manganese- and vanadium-focused projects in Brazil.

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