BY FIDELITY MHLANGA/ MTHANDAZO NYONI
OUTPUT at the Shurugwi-based Unki platinum mine increased by 4% to 50 900 ounces during the first quarter ended March 31, 2021 after ore grades improved, according to financial statements released on Friday by its South African parent, Anglo American Platinum.
The 50 900 ounces were a slight improvement from 49 000 ounces produced during the comparative period in 2020.
Anglo said Unki also benefited from the relaxation of Covid-19-induced restrictions during the period.
Overall platinum group metals (PGMs) production at Anglo increased by 7%, with output at Mogalakwena mine in South Africa driving the surge.
Commenting on the output, Anglo American said the firm had weathered Covid-19-induced obstacles.
“Unki PGM production increased by 4% to 50 900 ounces (platinum production increased by 4% to 22 600 ounces and palladium production increased by 2% to 20 000 ounces), as the mine recovered from the impact of Covid-19 in the prior period, as well as benefiting from an increase in grade,” it said.
Zimbabwe has the world’s second-largest platinum reserves in the region after South Africa, with the country calling on platinum miners to value-add the mineral locally.
According to Anglo, the company’s own-managed mines’ PGM production increased by 6% to 594 500 ounces.
The company said refined PGM production (owned production) increased by 59% to 973 000 ounces, as processing plants were back at normal operating capacity during the period under review.
PGM sales volumes increased by 66% to 1,13 million ounces as sales from production were supplemented by the drawdown of minor metals from refined inventory after increased demand.
“Sales volumes were strong in Q1, increasing 66% as refined production was supplemented by the drawdown of minor metals from refined inventory, following robust demand for these metals,” Anglo said.
The company said the year-to-date average realised a basket price of US$2 219 per PGM ounce reflecting strong prices, particularly for rhodium and minor metals.
Unki’s results showed a continuing trend of increasing production in Zimbabwe’s platinum mines, which saw output increase by 5% to 476 000 ounces last year, according to the World Platinum Investment Council (WPIC), which commended government for including the firms among essential services.
The three firms extracting the resource in Zimbabwe had produced 455 000 ounces in 2019, when a major plant shutdown at one of the operations affected milling.
In southern Africa, Zimbabwe had the only platinum mines that saw production rise during the final quarters of 2020 when Zimplats’ output rose by 4% in the quarter ending September.
Unki Mine saw platinum group metals output rise by 7%.
“In Zimbabwe, miners were allowed to continue through the country’s lockdown, with only one mine impacted,” the WPIC said.
“Country output increased 5% year-on-year to 476 000 ounces, reflecting disruptions in 2019 from a furnace rebuild.
“Production from Zimbabwe kept to levels similar to the previous few quarters.
“The year-on-year increase was due to the prior year period having been impacted by a furnace rebuild.”