Implats bounces back from lockdown

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South Africa’s third-largest source of platinum group metals (PGMs), Impala Platinum, got off to a strong start in its 2021 financial year, boosted by the inclusion of its new Canadian operation and the sound performance at its SA and Zimbabwean assets.

Implats reported 870,000oz of refined PGMs in the three months to end-September, a 58% increase compared to the same period a year ago when it was busy with maintenance at its Impala Rustenburg smelter and its furnace at Zimplats.

The PGMs included all six metals that make up the suite of metals Implats mines.

At a mining level, which can be measured by metals in concentrate, there was an 11% increase in output, with its mines delivering 859,000oz, which included the joint ventures at Mimosa in Zimbabwe and Two Rivers in SA.

Both metrics were boosted by the inclusion of Impala Canada, an R11bn purchase, for the first time.

Mines in SA and Canada were returning to steady state production after disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, most notably in SA where the government ordered a hard lockdown at the end of March and gradually relaxed restrictions to allow mines to resume full production during May.

“Production losses attributable to the pandemic in the quarter were minimal and our health, safety and operating protocols have proved effective in mitigating the impact of the virus on our operations, employees, host communities and customers,” said CEO Nico Muller.

Implats said the infection rate across the company “which peaked in June 2020, has maintained a steady downward trend throughout the first quarter of financial year 2021.” Implats recorded 2,137 infections and has just 17 active cases.

“PGM pricing remains robust and we continue to experience strong demand for our primary products. We are well positioned to continue delivering exceptional value to all our stakeholders in the year ahead.”

The flagship operation is Impala Rustenburg and the one which came under intense management scrutiny to return it to profit in recent years.

Higher grades and a better performance at the concentrators kept metal-in-concentrate steady at 346,000oz despite a 2% fall in milled throughput resulting from the lingering effects of the lockdown, increased electricity blackouts from Eskom, and reduced output at two old shafts.

The other major asset in Implats is its Zimplats subsidiary, the largest miner in Zimbabwe, which hosts the second-largest known deposit of PGMs.

Concentrate output dipped by 2% to 148,000oz during the quarter because of planned maintenance of the Ngezi concentrator.

Impala Canada delivered 61,000oz of PGMs, the maiden contribution to Implats, which noted output was “impacted by the residual impact of Covid-related challenges at the mine site and planned underground infrastructure enhancements, which were completed in the period under review.” – Business Live