Black Canyon eyeing manganese opportunities as Balfour advances

Black Canyon (ASX:BCA) plans to stay in the East Pilbara for the long-term but will evaluate opportunities in the manganese space within other jurisdictions as they arise.

Executive Director Brendan Cummins tells Mining.com.au the company will in the meantime continue to explore its other tenements with capital deployment planned to undertake further prospectivity analysis. This will be through the integration of multiple datasets and importantly boots on ground evaluations.

“Once targets have been assessed then further detailed exploration will be planned that might include ground geophysical surveys and drilling.”

Black Canyon controls the largest contained manganese deposits in Western Australia with 33.1 million tonnes of contained Mn.

In February, Cummins told this news service that Black Canyon is running a two-horse race to deliver a quality manganese concentrate while working towards producing manganese sulphate which is critical for batteries in EVs.

He today (15 March 2024) says the company is staying on that course, while it also evaluates its other projects that comprise more than 2,400km-square of prospective tenure in a premier mining jurisdiction (East Pilbara) having already consolidated the large landholding.

The Executive Director explains that the current market fundamentals look solid for manganese – which is the fourth-most used metal – which bodes well for Black Canyon given the type of manganese it is poised to produce.

“Global manganese ore supply in 2023 was 60 million tonnes, which was up by slightly (2%) from 2022 and is equivalent to 21.24Mt of contained manganese at an average grade of 35.4% manganese. The largest segment of the manganese market is dominated by medium grade ores that range between 30 and 40% manganese.

Typical of many commodities the global average grade of manganese ores is declining affected by the decrease in the availability of high-grade ores and market acceptance and utilisation of more readily available medium grade ores.

Global supply continues to be dominated by Africa – specifically the countries of Gabon and South Africa with Australia ranked fourth largest exporter.

Black Canyon’s products will range between 30 and 33% manganese, falling within the in demand medium-grade Mn bracket with the added advantage of higher silica content so it is sought after for the production of silico-manganese, which is the largest manganese alloy product produced.”

Looking ahead, Cummins says the critical KPIs Black Canyon has set itself for 2024 will help the company capitalise on these opportunities in the market.

These KPIs include updating the mining Scoping Study to produce manganese concentrates from the Balfour Manganese Field. He says the company is examining a larger throughput operation because it is not resource constrained and that will “hopefully decrease our unit costs in addition to identifying areas to reduce opex”.

Black Canyon will also review options and select an industrial precinct to potentially develop a downstream processing facility within Australia.

Cummins adds: “The evaluation is progressed well with a number of key criteria with a strong focus on existing industrial precincts with established infrastructure, complimentary industries, access to consumables/reagents and renewable energy sources.”

Meanwhile, the company will advance hydrometallurgical testwork to further optimise the HPMSM flowsheet it has developed to process its oxide ores. This information will be required to advance the pilot plant design, which the company hopes to have designed and planned later in 2024.

The company will also liaise with state and federal governments to access funding opportunities specifically designed to develop critical mineral capacity in Australia.

Cummins notes the team is continuing to engage with end users interested in manganese products for steel and battery applications. These third parties may include manganese concentrate end users such as alloying smelters or steel manufacturers but also battery suppliers to EV auto OEMs or possibly the EV OEMs themselves.

Black Canyon is focused on the underexplored Balfour Manganese Field and across the Oakover Basin, in Western Australia.

Cummins says the emerging potential for the Balfour Manganese Field is evident by the size of the geological basin, mineral resources identified to date, distance from port, potential for shallow open pit mining and a likely beneficiated Mn oxide concentrate product grading between 30 and 33% Mn.

Black Canyon holds several exploration licenses 100% within the Balfour Manganese Field with a 75% interest in the Carawine joint venture with ASX-listed Carawine Resources (ASX:CWX). A global mineral resource of 314Mt @ 10.4% Mn has been defined across the Balfour Manganese Field projects.

Manganese continues to have attractive fundamentals where it is essential and non-substitutable in the manufacturing of alloys for the steel industry and a critical mineral in the cathodes of lithium-ion batteries.

It is the twelfth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. While some 300 minerals contain manganese, only about a dozen are of economic significance.

Manganese is the fourth-most used metal in terms of tonnage after iron, aluminium, and copper and 90% of all manganese consumed annually goes into steel as an alloying agent.

After steel, the second most important market for the metal is in the form of electrolytic manganese dioxide and electrolytic manganese metal, both of which are used in the production of rechargeable EV batteries in association with lithium, cobalt, and nickel.

Write to Adam Orlando at Mining.com.au

Images: Black Canyon
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Written By Adam Orlando
Mining.com.au Editor-in-Chief Adam Orlando has more than 20 years’ experience in the media having held senior roles at various publications, including as Asia-Pacific Sector Head (Mining) at global newswire Acuris (formerly Mergermarket). Orlando has worked in newsrooms around the world including Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and Sydney.