Euro Manganese (ASX: EMN) – Don’t You Forget About Me!

Euro Manganese Inc.
  • (ASX:EMN)
  • Shares Outstanding: 176.27M
  • Share price: CA$0.14 (29.01.2020)
  • Market Cap: CA$23.796M

Investors have been bombarded by the ‘EV revolution’ narrative, and many are looking to get their piece of the EV pie.

A photo of some fine manganese against a white background.
Manganese: the forgotten EV metal?

However, while the narrative itself has been widely discussed and promoted, the constituent metals of electric vehicle batteries have seen different levels of attention. Manganese and graphite spring to mind as the poor cousins to nickel, lithium, copper and cobalt. Today, we want to talk about the first of those ‘forgotten’ metals, manganese. It’s a silver-grey transition metal with application in industrial alloys such as stainless steel, and, of course, in the cathodes of nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) lithium-ion batteries.

Euro Manganese Inc.

We came across a company that says it offers investors access to manganese, in the form of manganese production from tailings, Euro Manganese Inc. (TSX/ASX: EMN). Yesterday, we spoke with their CEO, Marco Antonio Romero, to discuss what sort of opportunity EMN can offer investors. CLICK HERE to watch the full interview.

The first thing to note is that this is not a mining investment story. It’s a tailings story with some production thrown in. We’ve covered some similar stories in recent months that also stray from conventional mining, such as Neometals, DRDGold and Jubilee Metals Group. Euro Manganese is based in the Czech Republic. Their Chvaletice Manganese Project is Europe’s largest manganese deposit by far and has a PEA. EMN is currently working on a Feasibility Study, having by-passed the Pre-Feasibility Study, and is finalising its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and filing for permits.

A pilot plant was built as part of the PEA to confirm the ultra-high purity of the product and to test the process flowsheet. Apparently, the test worked and EMN is now ready to press on with the construction of its Demonstration Plant, subject to sourcing funding of US$4M, and the US$1M per annum operating costs. The Demonstration Plant is designed to produce bulk, multi-ton samples of manganese products for potential customers to trial. This should yet again prove EMN’s processing flowsheet is effective, which, given the conventional technology being used, Romero is quietly confident about. If customers like the high-purity manganese products, a CAPEX of US$400M is required for the Main Plant, designed to produce 50,000t of high-purity “pharmaceutical” grade manganese products for Chvaletice’s life of Resource, c. 20 years.

EMN’s intention to build the Demonstration Plant has opened up opportunities to have discussions with investors on the basis of actual products rather than just the Feasibility Study. The Demonstration Plant has multiple purposes, given its potential to trial new technologies as an R&D facility, and later to act as a training facility for new operators as the Main Plant ramps up. Typically, a Demonstration Plant of this type would take c. 1 year to construct, followed by a trial period for the production of manganese products.

EMN has signed an EPC contract with Changsha Research Institute Of Mining & Metallurgy (CRIMM), to build the Demonstration Plant, which will give them “great access to knowhow and technology.” Given nobody has built a processing plant like the one EMN is proposing since 1974, other than the Chinese, Romero is trying to reduce the risk component, albeit a small one. We got that sense from Romero, meticulous planning and attention to detail seem to be in his DNA. In business, this counts, but so does timing, something we would appreciate the company having a position on.

Then the Main Plant will need to be constructed and made operational. So, it could be 4-5 years before EMN actually starts to produce revenue. Assuming they buy into the EV and Manganese thesis, this might be a good story for investors who have some time on their hands or have a blended approach to their investment portfolio.

EMN intends to provide products primarily to the EV industry for NMC cathodes. The distinction is clear here: Romero talks about manganese products, not the metal. Romero claims every Western EV brand needs manganese, so the market size is well defined. The products themselves are being produced to a “higher standard than ever before,” given the environmental, reclamation and waste disposal standards of the EU in comparison to most other manganese tailings jurisdictions.

The Tesla logo in red.
Western EV manufacturers need manganese.

What we find encouraging about this story is the green credentials. Not only does it feed into the EV macro story, it is also a tailings/recovery story. It makes sense ethically on multiple levels and, similar to battery recycling companies, it provides a consistency to the green energy cycle. If consumers and investors alike are going to demand green credential are on display, they aren’t going to be happy until the entire production-chain meets those demands. Using tailings removes the environmental impacts associated with mining (making an EIA much easier to attain). In addition, tailings are a much less risky investment class than conventional mining; companies have a clear knowledge of the resource they are dealing with because it is at surface, rather than the costs associated with guessing where and what the scale is of the resource underground.

The Chvaletice Resource has already been mined, crushed and milled, and the resource is hosted in manganese carbonate. Carbonate ore and the tailings deposit provide a significantly cheaper cost and environmental advantages compared to oxide ores.

The Chvaletice Resource is claimed by Romero to be ‘globally significant.’ The resource has been 95% quantified over the last 4.5 years, and this has been aided by the mineralogy of the material: very fine particles that are well homogenised and distributed throughout the deposit laterally. It is fully drilled off (no more drilling is required), and EMN want to turn this Resource into a Reserve. There is very little variability in the ore body, and this, alongside EMN’S understanding of their resource and metallurgical performance, may help provide EMN’s future plant with consistent feed.

There are some hurdles to overcome. They need to raise capital soon to construct the Demonstration Plant and unlock the company’s potential. Romero was in London to speak with investors and strategic partners. Conversations are taking place, but it remains unclear how and when exactly EMN will announce a funding package, or what that will look like. We wait to hear from the company. With about USD$4M on the books as of Q3/19, investors will want guidance from the company about the deliverables and actions for this year.

EMN is listed on both the ASX and TSX; Romero wanted to ensure the company had exposure to “two of the leading resource capital markets in the world.” The share register is comprised of investors from Australia (40%), Canada (40%), and Europe/Asia/North America (20%). It’s been a disappointing 12-months in terms of share performance, falling from AUS$0.44 to AUS$0.15, on poor volumes. This isn’t a case of the only way is up, but if Romero can find the cash for the Demonstration Plant this quarter and produce test samples for customers in early 2021, then Euro Manganese has the chance to capture a meaningful piece of the manganese market with a high-margin product.

There have been some questions in the market about the excessive size of the management team. Romero is very candid about cost management and was keen to talk to us about his G&A. He runs a tight ship, but for now, raising capital is the order of the day. EMN also needs to show investors how and where they sit in this EV cycle and where the money will be made? They are not a miner so they can’t afford to think like one. Partnerships, sales contracts and distribution is where we need clarity. EMN has work to do, but for patient investors, this could be a good opportunity.

This is a story we’re definitely going to keep an eye on. It is the only near-term production manganese story in town, unless you know different, in which case let us know below and we will investigate….

If you see something in this article that you agree with, or even disagree with, please let us know in the comments below.

Any advice contained in this website is general advice only and has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situations or needs. You should not rely on any advice and / or information contained in this website or via any digital Crux Investor communications. Before making any investment decision we recommend that you consider whether it is appropriate for your situation and seek appropriate financial, taxation and legal advice.

A photo of a racing Tesla car with a blurred landscape in the background. There are 2 Crux Investor logos on the car, and two pictures of manganese.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *