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AMERICA'S GLOBAL DEPENDENCY FOR NEARLY EVERYTHING
Friday, October 8, 2010
Manganese from Gabon
I learned an interesting tidbit about manganese, a metal the U.S. uses mostly in steel alloys and imports at a rate of 100%. Our primary supplier is little Gabon, with 57% of our manganese ore imports. Gabon’s manganese is associated with a pretty cool location – the only natural nuclear reactor known on earth.
A little over two billion years ago fissionable uranium isotope U235 was more abundant in uranium deposits, at nearly three percent, than it can be today simply because over those two billion years most of it has decayed to lead. Evidently critical mass was reached in a uranium deposit back then, and nuclear reactions happened. It’s not perfectly clear why the manganese is associated, but it’s enough to make manganese Gabon’s second most valuable export. $100,000,000 worth came to the US in 2009 – but that pales in comparison to Gabon’s oil exports to the US, valued at $2,200,000,000, twenty-two times the manganese value.
Manganese steel is critical in construction, so the late 2000s recession has taken a toll. US manganese consumption in 2009 was a third of its use in 2006, but it is still a half-billion-dollar business in the United States.