Platinum group metals (PGMs) miner Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) produced 6% less PGMs year-on-year in the first quarter of this year, at 956 000 oz.
Platinum production was 5% lower year-on-year at 444 300 oz, while palladium production was 10% lower at 296 600 oz.
The total PGMs production from Amplats-managed mines decreased by 11%, to 529 200 oz, with platinum down 10% to 241 000 oz and palladium down 15% to 191 600 oz.
PGMs production at Mogalakwena decreased by 24% to 248 800 oz, compared with the record production from the mine in the first quarter of last year. The mine's platinum output decreased by 24% to 104 400 oz, while palladium production declined by 25% to 114 500 oz.
The decrease is largely attributable to a 17% reduction in PGMs built-up head grade, from 3.39 g/t to 2.81 g/t, as severe rainstorms led to the redirection of mining to lower-grade areas, as well as lower-grade ore stockpiles being used.
In addition, Covid-19 and global geopolitical events are impacting on supply chains, which has delayed delivery of heavy mining equipment to site, impacting the advancement in drilling.
Further, with Amplats’ South Concentrator scheduled to undergo planned maintenance in the third quarter to coincide with the Polokwane smelter rebuild, there will be little ability to make up production this year, the miner notes.
As such, Amplats is adjusting its full-year metal-in-concentrate guidance, from between 4.1-million and 4.5-million ounces, to between 3.9-million and 4.3-million ounces of PGMs, while its refined production guidance is also adjusted from between 4.2-million and 4.6-million ounces, to between 4-million and 4.4-million ounces of PGMs.
CEO Natascha Viljoen says Amplats’ strong commitment to and focus on safety resulted in no work-related fatalities at all operations, including its joint venture (JV) operations, in the first quarter. “We continue to work extremely hard at all operations to improve the safety of our people and were able to reduce our total recordable case injury-frequency rate by 19% to 2.16 per million hours worked.”
She adds that the discipline to continue with the asset reliability maintenance cycle means Amplats will see short-term impacts on production, but that the company continues to improve its operating environment and the reliability of its assets to deliver sustainable value creation.
PGMs production from Amandelbult increased by 3% to 159 900 oz in the first quarter, with platinum up 2% to 81 400 oz and palladium up 4% to 37 100 oz, despite further infrastructure closures in the second quarter of 2021. Amandelbult experienced an improvement in underground mining performance, resulting in an increase in PGMs built-up head grade.
Mototolo's PGMs production increased by 15% to 67 200 oz, with platinum up 14% to 30 700 oz and palladium 17% to 19 700 oz – owing to higher grades and an improved return-to-work process following the December holiday period.
Unki's PGMs production increased by 5% to 53 300 oz, with platinum up 8% to 24 500 oz and palladium 2% to 20 300 oz.
Unki’s concentrator debottlenecking project was completed in the fourth quarter of 2021, which increased concentrator capacity from 180 000 t a month to 210 000 t a month, while increased underground mining and ore stockpile availability led to a 21% increase in tonnes milled.
Further work is planned to increase Unki's plant stability, which should lead to an improvement in throughput.
Total PGMs production from JV operations decreased by 6% to 187 800 oz, with platinum down 4% to 85 600 oz and palladium 8% to 55 200 oz.
Total Kroondal PGMs production decreased by 7% to 119 200 oz, with platinum down 5% to 58 600 oz and palladium 9% to 29 600 oz – largely owing to the natural decline of Simunye and lower grades at the Bambanani and Kwezi shafts. This was partly offset by production from the new Kilpfontein opencast.
Total Modikwa PGMs production decreased 4% to 68 600 oz, with platinum declining 4% to 27 000 oz and palladium 5% to 25 600 oz as the mine milled Merensky ore that was not milled in the prior period, which slightly lowered PGMs built-up head grade and recovery.
As for base metals production, Amplats produced 6% less, with nickel down 5% to 4 600 t and copper down 8% to 3 400 t – impacted by lower production from Mogalakwena.
Amplats’ refined PGMs production (from owned production, excluding tolling) decreased by 26% to 718 500 oz, owing to more normalised throughput, as the first quarter of 2021 benefited from higher-than-normal work-in-progress inventory following the Anglo Converter Plant Phase A rebuild and commissioning in the fourth quarter of 2020.
During the first quarter of this year, Amplats’ PGM sales decreased by 26% to 838 200 oz, which is in line with lower refined production. Platinum sales volumes decreased by 23% to 333 300 oz, while palladium sales decreased by 12% to 235 800 oz.
PGM sales volumes from trading increased by 81% to 400 900 oz.
The average realised basket price of $2 685/oz of PGMs for the first quarter reflects a more normal level of ruthenium sales volumes compared with the first quarter of 2021.