Exploring flux options and manganese reserves in Europe: a path to sustainable metallurgy

Exploring flux options and manganese reserves in Europe: a path to sustainable metallurgy

The metallurgical industry stands at a crossroads, where the pursuit of sustainability intersects with the quest for resource efficiency. Within this landscape, the identification and evaluation of suitable fluxes play a crucial role in optimizing processes while minimizing environmental impact. Additionally, the mapping of manganese reserves across Europe sheds light on the region’s potential to diversify its resource base and reduce dependency on imports.

Flux options: Primary and Secondary

Fluxes, such as limestone, lime, dolomite, and industrial by-products rich in calcium carbonate (CaCO3), calcium oxide (CaO), and magnesium oxide (MgO), serve as indispensable components in metallurgical operations. Primary resources like limestone, lime, and dolomite have long been utilized for their effectiveness in facilitating slag formation and impurity removal. However, the integration of secondary flux sources derived from mining and industrial processes e.g. limestone, marble or dolomite powder wastes among others offers a pathway towards greater resource efficiency and waste reduction.

Industrial by-products, including steelmaking slags (e.g. EAF slag), sludges from the paper industry e.g. lime sludge, deinking paper sludge, construction and demolition wastes etc. represent untapped resources abundant in calcium and in some cases magnesium compounds. Incorporating these materials into metallurgical processes not only enhances flux availability but also addresses the challenge of waste disposal, contributing to a circular economy approach.

Potential of manganese reserves in Europe

In the EU, manganese reserves are reported only for Romania, however they do exist in other countries. These reserves are estimated at about 18,000 kt Mn. (reference: Matos C.T, Ciacci, L; Godoy León, M.F.; Lundhaug, M.; Dewulf, J.; Müller, D.B.; Georgitzikis, K.; Wittmer, D.; Mathieux, F., Material System Analysis of five battery-related raw materials: Cobalt, Lithium, Manganese, Natural Graphite, Nickel, EUR 30103 EN, Publication Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2020, ISBN 978-92-76-16411-1, doi:10.2760/519827, JRC119950.

Nevertheless, the Admiris team’s mapping of manganese reserves in Europe reveals a significant resource potential beyond Romania. So, manganese ore deposits form an arc around the north side of the Black Sea, encompassing regions in Turkey, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, and Kazakhstan. These deposits, collectively holding reserves of approximately 600 × 106 metric tons of Mn, positioning the region as the world’s second-largest repository of manganese, after the Kalahari Manganese Field in South Africa.

While historically, manganese production in Europe has been limited, recent developments in mining operations signify potential growth opportunities. In Sweden, manganese deposits associated with iron deposits in Bergslagen have been identified, albeit with relatively modest reserves. 

Additionally, the manganese quarry in Vatra Dornei, Romania, now under the ownership of Slovak company OFZ, presents an opportunity for increased production capacity, with reserves estimated at 0.5 Mt for open-pit mining and 1 Mt for underground mining, with an annual production capacity of around 45,000 tonnes of wet Mn ore.

Towards a sustainable future

As the metallurgical industry navigates towards a sustainable future, strategic initiatives must prioritize:

  1. Diversification of Flux Sources: Integration of primary and secondary flux sources to optimize resource utilization and minimize environmental impact.
  2. Exploration and Extraction: Exploration of manganese reserves beyond Romania, tapping into the vast potential of manganese deposits across Europe.
  3. Innovation and Collaboration: Investment in research and development to enhance extraction, processing, and utilization technologies, alongside fostering collaboration between industry stakeholders and research institutions.

By harnessing the potential of fluxes and manganese reserves, Europe can chart a course towards resource efficiency, self-sufficiency, and sustainable growth in the metallurgical sector. These endeavors not only align with global sustainability goals but also foster economic resilience and competitiveness in the face of evolving market dynamics.