JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – JSE-listed Impala Platinum’s (Implats’) first-quarter production slumped 17% to 376 000 oz, compared with the 454 000 oz produced in the quarter ended September 2012.
Increased production from the Phase 2 expansion at the Zimplats operation and improved output from the Impala and Marula operations were more than offset by lower Impala Refining Services (IRS) receipts and inventory build-up.
Throughput at IRS for the quarter ended September 30, decreased by a sizeable 31% year-on-year to 181 000 oz, largely as a result of the cessation of deliveries from a recycling customer and some build-up in pipeline stocks at the refineries.
In contrast, Zimplats’ mill throughput increased 43% year-on-year to 1.5-million tonnes on the back of the continued ramp-up in production at the Mupfuti mine and the treatment of additional material from the ore stockpiles.
Head grade declined 2% to 3.46 g/t, impacted by lower-grade material sourced from the stockpiles and some ore dilution as a result of poor ground conditions being encountered in some sections of the mine.
Platinum-in-matte production increased 50% to 60 000 oz compared with the prior year’s corresponding period.
South Africa’s second-largest platinum producer said in a production report on Monday that the Zimplats Phase 2 expansion remained on track to deliver 270 000 oz of platinum in early 2015, adding that, following the inauguration of a new government in Zimbabwe, the company’s indigenisation plan would now be reviewed by the new Minister of Indigenisation.
“These discussions will also include further engagement on the previously announced land acquisition by the government of Zimbabwe,” Implats stated.
The Zimbabwe-based Mimosa mine produced 26 000 oz of platinum in concentrate during the period.
Meanwhile, while mill throughput at the Impala mine declined 7% to three-million tonnes for the quarter, as a result of the closure of two old production shafts and an underground conveyor fire, the operation marginally lifted refined platinum output to 195 000 oz.
This came on the back of improved mill grades and higher metallurgical recoveries, as well as a smelter lock-up during the quarter.
The company noted that operational focus would remain on optimising development, equipping, construction and ledging activities to deal with ore reserve flexibility constraints and to ramp-up the new 16 and 20 shaft complexes.
This was aimed at growing production from the current 700 000 oz/y to 850 000 oz/y by 2018.
“It is pleasing to report that these projects remain on track and first stoping production started from 16 shaft during the quarter,” the company said.
Meanwhile, tonnes milled at Marula rose 11% to 453 000 t for the period, aided by the introduction of additional mining teams and increased stoping efficiencies.
This improvement, together with a marginal increase in head grade to 4.25 g/t, resulted in platinum-in-concentrate production increasing by 15% to 20 000 oz.
Impala reported that unit costs continued to be impacted by mining inflation and the transition from old to new shafts at Impala Rustenburg, while costs rose by about 8% from the corresponding period to R16 600/oz in the quarter.
“We continue to work on the turnaround plan at Impala Rustenburg and our capital initiatives to grow production at Impala Rustenburg and Zimplats, all of which will temper future unit cost escalation,” the company noted.