COVID-19 chokes Unki’s PGM production

Amplats' subsidiary Unki Mine located in Shurugwi District, Midlands, Zimbabwe.
  • PGM production down 3% to 201 700oz
  • Delivered an adjusted EBITDA margin of 46% against 35% in 2019
  • Improved the built-up head grade by 4% from 3.45 to 3.58 g/t

HARARE – Anglo American Platinum has reported that PGM production at its Zimbabwe-based operation, Unki Mine decreased by 3 percent to 196 100 ounces from 201 700 PGM ounces in 2020, primarily due to the Covid-19 national lockdowns and disruptions.

In its 2020 annual results and strategy update, the Group said when Zimbabwe announced a national lockdown on March 28, 2020, Unki mine conducted a safe and measured ramp-down to care and maintenance.

With effect from 7 April, however, the Government recognized mining as an essential service and Unki was able to ramp up to full production.

As a result of the precautions taken to ensure a safe start, the miner said it lost nine days of production, concentrator operations lost 33 days, and smelting operations lost 60 days.

The mine was back at normal production levels from early in the third quarter.

“The mine delivered an adjusted EBITDA margin of 46% (2019: 35%) and a ROCE of 38% (2019: 26%). US dollar cash operating costs were 11% lower at US$145 million.

“However, the US-dollar-denominated costs were adversely impacted by the weakening of the rand against the US dollar, with the South African currency depreciating by 13% on average for the year to R16.36 per dollar (2019: R14.50 per dollar)

“Consequently, ZAR-denominated cash operating costs increased by 1% to R2.4 billion despite lower production,” said the miner.

As a result, cash operating costs per PGM ounce rose by 4 percent to R12,198 per ounce for the period.

The mine improved the built-up head grade by 4 percent from 3.45 to 3.58 g/t, decreased mass pull and increased recovery as its P101 programme delivered results.

During the period under review, the mine incurred R26 million of costs (operating and capital expenditure) as part of its digitalisation programme during 2020 (2019: R14 million).

This included installing underground Wi-fi infrastructure, as well as a fleet data management system to track analytics on primary production equipment. This will enhance real-time data analysis, improve short-interval control and overall equipment effectiveness.

Overall, the Group’s total PGM production for 2020 decreased by 14% to 3,808,900 ounces, mainly attributable to the shutdown of operations due to national lockdowns aimed at reducing the spread of Covid-19, as well as the closure of the Tumela Upper section and some surface operations at Amandelbult, as they reached their end of life.

PGM production from own-managed mines (Mogalakwena, Amandelbult, Unki, and Mototolo) decreased by 13% to 2,209,400 ounces (2019: 2,552,200 ounces) due to lower production at all operations largely as a result of the Covid-19 shutdowns. Platinum production decreased by 15% to 998,200 ounces (2019: 1,172,500 ounces) and palladium output declined by 9% to 829,600 ounces (2019: 914,600 ounces).

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