Zimbabwe: Unki Mine Production Rises 4pc Despite Pandemic

23 April 2021

Anglo American Platinum's local unit Unki Mine's platinum group metals (PGM) production for the first quarter to March 31, 2021 rose 4 percent to 50 900 ounces compared to same period in the prior year despite Covid-19 related disruptions.

Platinum output increased by 4 percent to 22 600 ounces while palladium rose by 2 percent to 20 000 ounces as the mine partly benefited from grade improvement, Anglo said in a statement Thursday.

Unki, the Midlands province-based miner started operations in 2011 and is the youngest operating platinum mine in Zimbabwe, home to the world's second largest reserves of platinum after South Africa.

Anglo's overall production increased by 3 percent on the back of strong performances at the copper operations in Chile and iron-ore operations in South Africa.

This helped offsetting plant maintenance downtime at Minas-Rio iron-ore mine in Brazil, and the suspension at the Moranbah metallurgical coal operation in Australia.

PGMs production rose by 7 percent to just over one million ounces compared to same quarter last year, with platinum production being 6 percent higher at 468 100 ounces.

Auto-catalyst metal palladium output rose by 9 percent to 330 500 ounces.

The improved performance was attributable to the lower impact from Covid-19 in the quarter.

The second wave of the pandemic early this year led to a staggered return-to-work process in order to ensure effective management of Covid-19 protocols.

This impacted January production, particularly at Amandelbult and Mototolo in South Africa, leading to a loss of 27,000 PGMs ounces, but significantly lower than 61 000 PGM ounces lost in the same quarter last year due to Covid-19 related shutdowns.

Anglo's thermal coal production decreased by 20 percent year-on-year to 4,9-million tonnes, coal production fell by 14 percent to 3,3-million tonnes due to prolonged suspension of Grosvenor operations following an underground gas incident in May 2020.

Grosvenor is set for re-opening in May with safety inspection already underway.

Copper production increased by 9 percent to 160 000 tonnes, as a result of strong performances at the Los Bronces and Collahuasi operations.

Diamond output increased by 7 percent to 7,2-million carats.

"We have had a strong production and refined production performance this quarter, despite the ongoing implications of Covid-19," Anglo chief executive Natascha Viljoen said.

Although we had no work-related fatalities in the quarter, we are disappointed with the increase in injuries and plans are in place to continue safety improvements and ensure a sustained turnaround.

Anglo's total PGMs production from own-managed mines increased by 6 percent to 594,500 ounces.

Of this, platinum production increased by 4 percent to 267,600 ounces while palladium production rose by 10 percent to 224,400 ounces.

PGMs production from joint operations increased by 6 percent to 200,700 ounces and the group attributed this increase to a reduced Covid-19 impact during the quarter compared to Q1 2020.

Refined PGMs production (own production) increased by 59 percent to 973,000 ounces, as the processing assets were back at normal operating capacity, with the ACP smelting more tonnes and performing ahead of expectations.

Anglo recorded PGMs sales volumes (excluding sales from trading) went up by 66 percent to 1,131,100 ounces as sales from production were supplemented by the drawdown of minor metals from refined inventory in support of increased demand.

The group has retained its full year production guidance, with PGMs production of between 4,2 - 4,6 million ounces and refined PGMs production of between 4,6 -5 million ounces.

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