JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Diversified miner Anglo American’s metallurgical coal production reached a record 7.2-million tons for the quarter ended March 31, 2013, with export metallurgical coal production having increased by 23% year-on-year to 4.6-million tons.
However, the group indicated that this was partially offset by excessive rainfall causing flooding throughout the quarter, which had a significant impact on production and waste removal at its Australian opencut operations.
Export thermal coal production in South Africa increased by 6% year-on-year to 3.9-million tons, driven by higher production at the Zibulo colliery, in Mpumalanga, after a reconfiguration of the wash plant to produce additional higher margin export coal, as well as improved machine availability at the Mafube mine, also in Mpumalanga.
Domestic thermal coal production increased by 4% to 9.6-million tons over the same period in 2012, owing to improved long wall production at the New Denmark mine, in South Africa, while output at the Cerrejón operation, in Colombia, fell by 49%, largely owing to a 32-day strike in February and March.
Meanwhile, Anglo’s overall copper production from its operations in Chile increased by 1% to 170 400 t in the first quarter of this year, with production from the Los Bronces mine rising by 5% to 98 300 t, with higher throughput at both plants offset by expected lower ore grades. This higher throughput also resulted in a 3% production increase compared with the fourth quarter of 2012.
The Collahuasi mine’s output was down 13%, driven by lower grades and the start of a 45-day planned shutdown of SAG Mill 3 in March. The mill is responsible for about 70% of plant throughput at Collahuasi.
Copper output at the El Soldado mine increased by 16% to 15 600 t, as a result of expected higher grades and improved recoveries.
However, the group’s nickel production decreased by 48% to 6 200 t in the first quarter of this year, compared with the first quarter of 2012, mainly owing to the permanent cessation of production and mining activities at the Loma de Níquel mine, in Venezuela, in November last year.
Anglo ceased production at Loma de Níquel in early September 2012 and the three remaining mining concessions expired in November 2012.
On the diamond front, production increased by 3% year-on-year to 6.4-million carats, largely reflecting improved grades, offset by lower production brought on by planned plant maintenance at the Orapa mine, in Botswana.
Production decreased by 21% compared with the prior quarter, with operations at the Venetia mine, in South Africa's Limpopo province, disrupted by excessive rainfall. Anglo noted that the impact was partially mitigated through the processing of ore stockpiles, with the shortfall expected to be recovered in the second half of 2013.
The Jwaneng mine, in Botswana, was also continuing to recover from the impact of its slope failure incident in June last year and excessive rainfall at the end of the year.
Meanwhile, the group’s equivalent refined platinum production decreased by 2% year-on-year to 583 000 oz, largely owing to the intermittent illegal strike action at the underground mines in South Africa, lower production at the Unki mine, in Zimbabwe, and the suspension of the nonmanaged pooled and shared Marikana operation in the second quarter of 2012.
Equivalent refined platinum production at the Rustenburg mines was flat, while the Amandelbult and Union mines reported decreases in output of 15%. Production at Unki was down 19% as a result of lower head grade and a decline in tonnes milled owing to the depletion of preproduction stockpiles.
However, this was partly offset by a 31% increase in production at the Western Limb tailings retreatment plant, which was largely driven by improved head grades and recoveries. At Mogalakwena, output increased by 1% to 87 000 oz, owing to increased throughput at the concentrators.
Refined platinum production fell by 9% year-on-year to 439 000 oz, impacted by the prolonged shutdown at the converting plant in the first quarter of 2012.
Anglo’s Kumba Iron Ore subsidiary, meanwhile, reported a 2% year-on-year rise in output to 10.34-million tons for the first quarter of this year. This was attributable to a strong performance at the Kolomela mine, in the Northern Cape, which produced 2.7-million tons, an increase of 77% year-on-year.
Output was further boosted by recovering production rates at the Sishen mine, following the wildcat strike in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Iron-ore export sales volumes for the quarter decreased by 2% to 9.9-million tons, as a result of lower stockpiles, owing to the strike. Finished product stockpile levels amounted to 3.3-million tons, a decrease of 15% compared with the corresponding period in 2012.
Further, the Minas-Rio iron-ore project, in Brazil, continued to progress in line with the target of achieving first ore on ship by the end of 2014.
During the quarter under review, two further authorisations were obtained relating to the archaeological survey at the tailings dam and the works necessary for the start of prestripping at the mine site.
Activities at the beneficiation plant, pipeline, filtration plant and port continued as planned.
Anglo’s exploration expenditure for the first quarter of this year was up by $16-million to $48-million, largely driven by the inclusion of exploration costs following the acquisition of an additional 40% interest in diamond major De Beers in the second half of 2012.
The diversified miner noted that expenditure was primarily focused on opportunities in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Finland, Indonesia and several countries in Africa.
However, evaluation expenditure for the quarter fell by 48% to $55-million and was mainly focused on iron-ore, metallurgical coal, copper and diamonds.