PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Diversified miner South32 has reported an increase in coal and manganese production in the first quarter ended September, with the miner maintaining its production guidance for all of its operations for the full 2021.
Energy coal production for the first quarter increased by 20% on the fourth quarter, to 6.7-million tonnes, while metallurgical coal production was up 22% on the previous quarter, to 1.8-million tonnes.
Production during the first quarter was driven by a ramp-up of mining at the South African Energy Coal operations, following the disruption to operations relating to the nation-wide Covid-19 restrictions, while production at the Illawarra Metallurgical Coal project also increased with the successful return to a three longwall configuration in April.
South32 CEO Graham Kerr on Monday said that during the quarter under review, the company continued to reshape and improve its portfolio, progressing with the divestment of the South Africa Energy Coal asset, and entering into a binding agreement to divest its interest in the Tasmanian Electro Metallurgical Company (Temco) manganese alloy smelter.
Temco produces ferromanganese from ore produced at the Groote Eylandt Mining Company, and exports it to customers in Asia and North America, as well as steel producers in Australia and New Zealand.
Meanwhile, South32 on Monday reported that manganese production for the September quarter was also up by 19%, as both the Australian and South African manganese operations increased output.
The Australian operation was supported by an improvement in primary concentrator output, while operations at the South African project returned to full capacity following the Covid-19 lockdowns.
“Despite the health crisis, we have maintained annual production guidance at all our operations. We delivered a 19% increase in manganese ore production and a 22% increase in metallurgical coal production,” said Kerr on Monday.
Alumina production for the quarter declined slightly by 3% on the June quarter, to reach 1.3-million tonnes, while nickel production was up 3%, to 10 000 t. Silver production for the quarter was down 10% on the June quarter, to 2.8-million ounces, while lead production was down by 12%, to 26 400 t, and zinc production was down 27%, to 12 400 t, as both grades and production tonnage at the Cannington operation declined in the quarter under review.
“With another quarter of strong operating performance behind us and the further strengthening of our financial position, we have lifted the suspension of our on-market share buy-back. Our capital management programme has $121-million remaining and recommencing our buy-back will deliver immediate value to our shareholders,” Kerr added.