Platinum miner Impala Platinum (Implats) achieved the highest first-quarter mill tonnage at its Impala Rustenburg operations since the 2013 financial year, during the quarter ended September 30.
Tonnes milled at Impala Rustenburg increased by 5.6% year-on-year to 3.15-million tonnes in the first quarter of the 2019 financial year, which CEO Nico Muller said reflected the positive outcomes of various initiatives implemented at the operation to improve safety, production and cost performance.
Muller added that the platinum miner remained steadfast in its resolve to eliminate high-cost production, aligned with its lower future metal prices outlook.
To this end, Implats had progressed the Section 189 restructuring process for 1 500 employees and has engaged with parties interested in potentially acquiring the 1 Shaft operation, which is scheduled to be put on care and maintenance in April 2019 as per the company’s restructuring plan.
Implats is also further progressing the implementation of its Impala Rustenburg strategic restructuring plan, which includes consideration being given to alternative commercial outcomes, which could include the sale of some shafts and/or full-contract mining provisions.
In parallel to the 1 Shaft disposal process, Implats is continuing to engage with parties who may have an interest in, or have already expressed an interest in, the 100% outsourcing of 1 Shaft to a third-party contractor.
Meanwhile, Implats on Wednesday said tonnes milled across all operations, including joint venture (JV) operations, improved by1.9% year-on-year to 6.87-million tonnes.
The increase, Implats said, was largely owing to a much stronger operational performance at Impala Rustenburg.
Platinum in concentrate produced during the quarter across all mining operations was maintained at 349 000 oz, with increased production from Impala Rustenburg offset by lower volumes from Two Rivers and Mimosa.
Gross refined platinum production during the quarter increased by 8.2% to 369 000 oz, compared with the 341 000 oz achieved in the prior comparable period, which was impacted on by scheduled furnace maintenance at both the Impala Rustenburg and Zimplats operations.
Impala Rustenburg reported good performances across all mining operations, which was supported by the increased production from the development shafts and was partially offset by the loss of production from 4 Shaft, which was closed in January 2018.
Consequently, platinum in concentrate increased by 2.8% to 186 000 oz, compared with 181 000 oz in the prior comparable period. Refined platinum production increased by 35.3% to 180 000 oz from 133 000 oz in the prior comparable quarter.
Zimplats, meanwhile, sustained its operational performance with mill throughput and grade largely unchanged at 1.68-million tonnes and 3.48 g/t platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold (6E), respectively. As a result, platinum in concentrate produced at the operation during the quarter was maintained at 70 000 oz.
However, platinum in matte increased by 42.9% to 70 000 oz, compared with 49 000 oz in the prior corresponding period.
Marula continued to deliver an improved operational performance following prior business restructuring initiatives and ongoing multi-stakeholder engagements to sustain business continuity.
Tonnes milled during the period increased by 2.6% to 511 000 t, compared with 498 000 t in the prior corresponding period. However, the grade declined by 4.5% to 4.23 g/t 6E owing to a planned increase in development volumes and an increase in stoping width.
Consequently, platinum-in-concentrate production was maintained at 23 000 oz during the period under review.
Mimosa sustained production in line with design capacity. Tonnes milled during the period decreased by 2.1% to 702 000 t, compared with 717 000 t in the previous comparable quarter, impacted on by planned mill maintenance during the reporting period.
Platinum production in concentrate decreased by 6.3% to 30 000 oz from 32 000 oz in the prior corresponding period as a result of the lower milled tonnage and mill grade.
Two Rivers’ mill grade continued to be impacted on by mining into split reef areas, Implats added. Performance during the period was also affected by community disruptions not aimed specifically at Two Rivers, but which necessitated processing material from the lower-grade ore stockpile, the company explained.
Consequently, tonnes milled decreased by 3.2% to 825 000 t, compared with 852 000 t in the previous comparable quarter, and the mill grade deteriorated by 5.1% to 3.51 g/t.
This impacted on platinum-in-concentrate production, which decreased by 9.5% to 38 000 oz, compared with 41 600 oz in the prior comparable period.
Additionally, Impala Refining Services’ refined platinum production during the period decreased by 9.6% to 189 000 oz, compared with 209 000 oz in the prior comparable quarter. This, Implats said, was largely owing to higher deliveries from a third-party customer during the previous comparable period.
Mine-to-market production increased by 2% to 154 000 oz in the quarter under review, while third-party toll refining volumes decreased from 57 000 oz to 35 000 oz.
Revenues benefitted from a weaker rand and improved palladium and rhodium prices, with the revenue per platinum ounce up 14.2% year-on-year.