AUSTRALIAN Stock Exchange-listed platinum giant, Zimplats Holdings Limited, achieved an eight percent rise in ore output during the full-year to June 30, 2012, despite a three-day job action staged by a majority of its 9 000-strong workforce in January that temporarily disrupted operations.
Chief executive officer, Alex Mhe-mbere, told reporters in Harare last week that ore output rose to 4,6 million tonnes during the review period, from 4,2 million tonnes during the prior comparative period in 2011, but did not disclose the effect on production caused by the strike.
Platinum output increased by three percent to 187 100 ounces, from 182 100 in 2011, but pre-tax profit retreated to US$151 million, from US$236 million during the prior comparative period.
More than 50 percent of Zimplats' workers downed tools in January after overwhelmingly voting for the industrial action to press Mhembere to halt a decision to switch electricity off their houses until they agreed to a plan in which they would pay for domestic consumption.
It was the longest job action at Zimplats, 87 percent controlled by the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and London listed platinum major, Impala Platinum, since moving onto the Ngezi operations in 2001.
Mhembere said last week the rise in output had been affected by depressed prices during 2012.
"We achieved record results in terms of output," Mhembere told reporters.
"But revenues were actually depressed. The costs are going up when the prices are going down. We fear the graphs will not cross, we hope not. This has been a difficult year for the mining industry, globally and Zimplats has not gone unaffected. We are operating in a depressed market characterised by depressed metal prices and surplus in supply," he added.
Platinum prices have slumped to about US$1 500 per ounce from about US$1 800 per ounce in mid-2011, triggering windups and downward reviews in operations in the sector across the world.
The deteriorating crisis in the eurozone, and depressed demand in China, the world's largest consumers, have forced prices down.
Platinum's main industrial application is in autocatalysts in diesel-powered vehicles, for which Europe is the largest market.
Mhembere said the crisis had hit hard on revenue, which declined by 10 percent to US$473 million, from US$527 million in 2011 but his biggest worry was a sudden upsurge in costs when prices were decreasing.
He did not refer to the January strike during a 40-minute presentation, probably because it did not affect output but he has fought the case in the courts to come up with a solution.
Workers accused the mining giant of shifting goal posts and attempting to arm twist them into paying outstanding bills, some of them as high as US$5 000 per unit.
This was despite a pending court case then, in which Zimbabwe's largest platinum producer lost an arbitral ruling before appealing to the High Court.