Locating a deposit is often the first step in manganese mining. After locating significant deposits of manganese ore, equipment is usually brought in to form a mine. When manganese has been successfully dislodged from the rock bed, it is usually transported to a processing facility, either on- or off-site. Processing is usually done to remove impurities. The processed manganese can then be refined into many different products.
Manganese mining usually takes place near large deposits of high-quality manganese nodules. Many of these deposits are found in terrestrial sources on various continents around the world. Geological surveying equipment can help locate these deposits on land and in the ocean, which is thought to contain large quantities of manganese. Special equipment is needed for deep-sea extraction, however, which makes such operations cost-prohibitive. Otherwise, typical mining equipment — such as excavators, bulldozers and transportation vehicles — is used to carry out all mining operations.
Open-pit mining is often preferred for manganese mining. Underground mining is also possible, as is deep-sea mining in open pits similar to those used for terrestrial deposits. Manganese mining often requires a specific method of extraction, because nodules can be embedded among various other rock bed materials. One of the benefits to open-pit mining is reduced cost compared to other mining methods. The change in geologic configuration, however, means the environmental impact of this mining is often considered severe.
Transportation is an important part of manganese mining, because raw ore must be transported from the mine before it can be processed, refined and sold. Once manganese ore has been freed from the rock bed, it is often transferred by a heavy-duty excavator to a transportation vehicle. Large dump trucks with a high weight capacity are often essential for this function. Once transported to a processing machine or facility, many of which are near the mine, stationary machines often carry the mined material through the processing and refining machinery.
Processing and refining the ore are usually the final steps in manganese mining. Manganese nodules often contain significant levels of other materials, such as rock, mud and water, as a result of the mining process. Machines often crush the raw material, after which chemical or mechanical processes separate the manganese ore from the rest of the material. Once free of impurities, manganese is often heated or smelted, a process that can strengthen the material by changing its molecular composition. Once fully processed, manganese is added to various products, such as steel, fertilizer and paint.