Unki Mine Q4 output falls 17pc

Enacy Mapakame

Business Reporter

Anglo American Platinum Limited’s local unit Unki Mine’s platinum group metals (PGMs) production for the fourth quarter to December 31, 2022 fell 17 percent to 52 600 ounces compared to the same period in the prior year negatively impacted by a care and maintenance programme.

Platinum production went down 15 percent to 23,700 ounces while palladium production decreased by 18 percent to 20,300 ounces.

Unki was impacted by maintenance at the concentrator, as well as lower grade and recovery.

As a result of the output decline at the Zimbabwean unit and other mines in South Africa, the group recorded a general decline of 10 percent in PGMs production to 990 400 ounces for the quarter under review.

Of this, the group’s total platinum production went down 10 percent to 458 500 ounces, while palladium production decreased by 11 percent to 307 500 ounces.

“Total PGM production was 10 percent lower compared to the prior period as we continued to see lower grades at Mogalakwena.

“The closure of infrastructure at Amandelbult that came to the end of its life, and maintenance at the Unki concentrator, as well as lower grade and recoveries at Unki also contributed to lower production,” said group chief executive officer Natascha Viljoen commenting on the performance.

According to the group, total refined production of 877 200 PGM ounces was largely impacted due to the delay in the Polokwane smelter rebuild, lower mined production and the impact of power outages.

Viljoen however, said this was partially mitigated by strong utilisation and throughput from the group’s other smelters.

Sales volumes of 883 400 PGM ounces were in line with refined production.

“The impact of the delay to the Polokwane smelter rebuild, as well as Eskom load-shedding, net of inventory release and strong performance from Waterval and Mortimer smelters during the year, resulted in a year-end build-up in work-in-progress inventory of c.100 000 PGM ounces,” she said.

Total PGMs production from own-managed mines decreased by 12 percent to 557 600 ounces. Platinum production decreased by 12 percent to 253 600 ounces, while palladium production decreased by 13 percent to 200 300 ounces, primarily due to lower production from Mogalakwena, Amandelbult and Unki, partially offset by strong production from Mototolo.

PGMs production from joint operations was broadly in line compared to quarter four 2021 at 198 000 ounces with platinum production of 90 600 ounces and palladium production of 58 400 ounces.

In terms of base metal production, nickel production decreased by 16 percent to 4 800 tonnes and copper production decreased by 5 percent to 3 800 tonnes.

According to the group, total PGM sales volumes (excluding trading) decreased by 31 percent to 883 400 ounces, in line with lower refined production.

Platinum sales volumes decreased by 40 percent to 382 100 ounces and palladium sales volumes decreased by 29 percent to 282 200 ounces.

The average quarter 4 2022 realised basket price of US$2 293/PGM ounce was lower than Q4 2021 due to lower rhodium, iridium, and ruthenium prices.

Subject to electricity availability, metal-in-concentrate (M&C) PGM guidance for 2023 is 3,6 million ounces to 4 million PGM ounces. Refined PGM production guidance is 3,6 million to 4 million PGM ounces, subject to the impact of Eskom load-shedding.

“We remain on track to achieve our 2023 guidance, with a strong focus on operational excellence and cost discipline in the coming year,” said Ms Vlijoen.

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