Mechanical diggers are hard at work in the bleak landscape of the Moanda open-cast mine in Gabon, using giant jaws to rip out manganese and then dump the ore into trucks with a crash.
“We’re lucky here in Moanda. We find it about five to six metres (about 18 feet) below the surface,” said manager Olivier Kassibi, whose mine yields 36 tonnes of manganese each day.
Element number 25 on the periodic table, manganese, has traditionally been perceived as a useful if humdrum material widely employed in steel and alloys. More recently, though, the silvery metal has gained star status thanks to its emerging role in rechargeable car batteries, helping to wean the world off carbon-spewing fossil fuels.
Decarbonisation of the world economy will take centre stage at the UN’s COP27 climate talks in Egypt next month. And as the great transition goes into higher gear, eyes are turning to Africa. Its soil is rich in manganese, cobalt, nickel and lithium — crucial ingredients in cleaner technology for generating or storing power.
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