The coup in Gabon risks roiling global supplies of a key industrial metal, as the operator of the world’s largest manganese mine halts production as a precautionary measure.
(Bloomberg) — The coup in Gabon risks roiling global supplies of a key industrial metal, as the operator of the world’s largest manganese mine halts production as a precautionary measure.
While African nation is better known as an oil producer, Paris-based miner Eramet SA has been investing heavily in expanding manganese output in recent years. That’s helped the former French colony become the world’s No. 2 supplier of a metal, which is a key ingredient in steelmaking and is finding growing usage in electric-vehicle batteries.
Eramet has stopped its manganese mining operations and train-transport operations in Gabon out of precaution, a spokesman for the company said by phone on Wednesday. Soldiers seized power four days after the central African country held disputed presidential elections. Shares of Eramet, which has been expanding its key Moanda mine, slumped as much as 22% in Paris.
Manganese is one of the world’s most abundant mined elements, but production is concentrated in a handful of countries including South Africa, Gabon, Australia and China. Eramet said last month that the global market was in a slight surplus in the first half, but there are growing concerns about supply risks surrounding high-purity forms of the metal that are needed by battery-makers.
Earlier this year, the European Commission proposed designating battery-grade manganese as a strategic raw material, alongside other metals like copper and nickel that play a key role in the energy transition.
While a sustained suspension could roil global supplies, Gabon’s manganese assets are a major source of revenue and employment for the state. Eramet paid more than €132 million ($144 million) in taxes and dividends in 2022 and spent more than €407 million on local purchases and subcontracting. The company directly employed 8,767 people, it said in a report in June.
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