Australian diversified miner South32 is looking to produce manganese sulphate in the US to meet surging demand for the material from the battery sector, reported Reuters.

Manganese is mostly used in the steel industry as a hardening alloy.

South32 CEO Graham Kerr said the company is planning to develop its large Clark manganese oxide deposit at its Hermosa project in Arizona, US, over the coming years.

Located in the Patagonia Mountains, the project comprises the zinc-manganese-silver Clark oxide deposit.

It also comprises the zinc-lead-silver Taylor sulphide deposit and has a highly prospective broader land package comprising the copper-lead-zinc-silver Peake exploration target, as well as the Flux prospect.

Last year, the US introduced tax incentives to increase domestic critical minerals production in an effort to reduce reliance on China.

Kerr said: “Whether it is us or Rio [Tinto]… everyone has opportunities to invest money in every jurisdiction.”

The CEO said the company initially focused on developing its existing assets including promising copper deposits in Alaska, Arizona, Argentina and Chile.

Kerr added: “We have got lots of options. We will always look at things externally, but it is going to be through the lens of value and not blowing up the balance sheet.”

South32 currently owns several manganese-producing assets including the Groote Eylandt Mining Company (GEMCO), an open-cut strip mining operation in Australia, and South Africa Manganese in the Kalahari Basin.

South32 owns a 60% stake in GEMCO while Anglo American owns a 40% interest.

The Australian company’s South Africa Manganese comprises two manganese mines in the Kalahari Basin.