Jan Votava, Managing Director of Magnan Chvaletice s.r.o., the Czech subsidiary of Canadian company Euro Manganese Inc., discusses the company’s Chvaletice Manganese Project and its goal of becoming the leading, competitive and environmentally superior primary producer of ultra-high purity Manganese products in Europe
Writer: Sean Galea-Pace
“The Czech Republic has experienced a golden age in recent years, and it has been at the forefront among European countries in terms of its economy,” explains Jan Votava, Managing Director of Magnan Chvaletice s.r.o., the Czech subsidiary of Canadian company Euro Manganese Inc.
Euro Manganese is a Canada-based publicly traded firm focused exclusively on the development of a new high purity manganese production facility located in the Czech Republic. The proposed Chvaletice Manganese Project entails re-processing a significant manganese deposit hosted in mine tailings from a decommissioned mine, strategically located in Czech Republic. Euro Manganese aims to establish itself as a reliable producer of very high purity electrolytic manganese metal and manganese sulfate products to satisfy the needs of sophisticated producers of lithium-ion battery precursor materials, as well as specialty steel and aluminium alloys.
Votava has worked for the company since October 2017 and witnessed the transformation of the industry in the Czech Republic first-hand.
“As a result of the pandemic, the situation has changed a bit,” he admits. “The year-on-year comparison of the February performance of Czech industry ended in the red, mainly due to a decline in important manufacturing industries such as the manufacture of cars, the manufacture of electrical equipment and the manufacture of building materials. On the other hand, industrial companies managed to close more new orders than a year ago, despite last year’s higher comparison base.
“It’s quite exciting, and I am happy to be a part of it, especially because I am contributing to a project that has the potential to contribute to the European vision of decarbonisation, a circular economy and an independent supply value chain.”
Votava believes the Chvaletice Manganese Project is unique to Euro Manganese in several ways. “It stands to become the only primary source of high-purity manganese in the European Union at a time when European automakers are quickly transitioning to the manufacture of electric vehicles,” confirms Votava.
“Because of the importance of establishing a strong European battery raw materials supply chain, Euro Manganese has earned the support of EU-backed organisation EIT InnoEnergy, helping fulfil ambitions to create a competitive and sustainable battery cell manufacturing value chain in Europe.
“Another unique attribute is that the Chvaletice Manganese Project is not a mine. It will only reprocess historical waste from a decommissioned mine. The project is designed to recycle these fine, sandy tailings to extract the manganese they contain and to refine it into high-purity manganese products. This means the Chvaletice development does not result in the potentially adverse impacts of hard-rock mining. Furthermore, as we extract manganese from the tailings, remove other non-commercial metals, wash and neutralise the tailings, we expect to remediate a longstanding source of water pollution, bringing the site into compliance with the current, very stringent Czech and European Union environmental standards and regulations.”
Votava views supply chain as a strategic function that plays an influential role for the success of the project and today it is more critical than ever. He understands the importance of partnerships and believes that his company’s supply chain will be able to drive the firm’s progress despite the challenging environment.
“Strategic partnerships are essential for sustaining the supply chain and crucial for its successful performance,” he explains. “Those partnerships are about trust, commitment, enthusiasm – these are the terms which go beyond the words in any contract. But good partnerships don’t grow on trees. It must be cultivated and matured, mutual trust must be gradually built, so both parties feel comfortable and encouraged to invest long-term in the relationship. Then, when the bad times come, a good partner can help to overcome many problems, but the wrong partner can ruin your business even in the good times.”
Without good staff, achieving long-term success is impossible. Votava recognises the importance of retaining employees and keeping them motivated while also still being considered an attractive place to work when recruiting. He believes that sharing the same vision and passion is an essential for growth of the organisation and the project’s success.
“Finding a suitable replacement for an outgoing employee costs time and money, as well as the subsequent training of a new person — that is why we really take care in the satisfaction of existing employees,” he explains. “We are aware that a loyal and reliable employee is of great value for the overall productivity of the company. We currently have a great team, which I really appreciate. They are people who have been working with us almost from the very beginning, and I especially welcome the fact that they are able to constantly absorb and learn new things.”
With the future in mind, the Chvaletice Manganese Project remains Euro Manganese’s key focus and is in an advanced state of evaluation and planning.
“We are currently fabricating a demonstration plant, which is intended to produce large-scale samples of high-purity manganese for supply chain qualification by prospective customers,” he explains. “We have initiated work on our Final Environmental Impact Assessment (FEIA), and we are also working on a detailed feasibility study. We expect to begin operation of the demonstration plant and complete the feasibility study and FEIA in early 2022.”