JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Despite cautious optimism among industry stakeholders about the platinum group metals (PGMs) industry’s forward momentum, Northam Platinum CEO Paul Dunne on Tuesday warned delegates at the PGMs Industry Day, in Johannesburg, that the industry was “not out of the woods yet”.
Dunne lamented that the next 12 to 18 months could bring about more mine closures and associated job losses.
“The industry has not seen too much project work in a decade and capital build is now somewhat surprising, [especially with] capital intensity playing an important metric, [alongside] a relative cost of production,” he explained.
It is for this reason that mining companies, such as Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat), are trying to improve margins by addressing costs, CEO Steve Phiri pointed out, adding that RBPlat is “positioned for tough market conditions”.
Further, owing to the tough market conditions, Impala Platinum mining executive Thabile Makgala said the South African platinum industry is seeing a decline in production, especially in deep conventional mining.
To avoid continuing on this path, however, she highlighted that the industry should consider opening other areas for exploration, and move to mechanisation.
“South Africa needs to look at technology and innovation, and [the industry] must not be bled out where technology is concerned,” she said, adding that, to achieve this and move the industry forward, greater collaboration is needed.
It is incumbent on the industry to promote the future possibilities of the South African industry, while also collaborating with tertiary institutions to ensure that curriculums are correct for students, she averred.
Further, Phiri believes there is also room for greater collaboration among platinum miners to work together on one project. He said RBPlat is open to collaboration with other miners, but said everything would depend on the feasibility of the project.
Dunne agreed, stating that, if the project “makes sense”, it can be done successfully with two willing partners.
Ivanhoe Platinum senior VP Gerick Mouton, on the other hand, warned that this would be dependent on the orebody.
“As long as you have a great orebody and you’ve got something that you can mine profitability . . . there’s a lot of opportunity,” he stressed.