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Tue Dec 23 01:25:28 SAST 2014

The man who divined manganese's magic

SARAH WILD | 29 November, 2012 00:34
Platinum's mine. File photo

Thirty years ago, when Professor Nic Beukes started collecting data on manganese reserves, he had no idea his research would be used by mining companies.

"I started working [in the Kalahari Manganese Field in the Northern Cape] in 1982, and that data is now being used by mining companies to know where to explore," said the scientist who is part of the University of Johannesburg's department of geology.

South Africa has the world's largest and highest grade reserves of manganese, accounting for about 80% of global reserves.

Beukes specialises in ferromanganese deposits.

"It involves characterising the deposits, describing them, developing an idea of how they formed and then applying that information into exploration. Then there is geometallurgy, which is how to use [the ore] and the best ones to smelt," he said.

An alloy such as ferromanganese makes steel both stronger and more ductile .

The iron ore used in the steel-making process often contains impurities such as sulphur and excess carbon. Ferromanganese removes the sulphur from the iron ore and imparts strength. Moreover, there is no other alloy that can be used in steel production to replace ferromanganese and retain its unique characteristics.

"In every ton of steel, there is 4kg of manganese. It is the element that makes steel flexible," he said. - BDLive

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