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Kumba Iron Ore, union reach wage deal

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s Kumba Iron Ore, a unit of Anglo American, and a major union have signed a three year wage deal giving workers an increase of much as a 10% a year, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said on Friday.

NUM, which is the majority union at all of Kumba’s operations, said workers would get an annual pay rise ranging between 7% to 10%.

The parties also agreed a once off payment of R25 065 ($1 905) for all employees covered by the agreement.

NUM in May tabled wage hike demands of 12.5% to 16% with Kumba.

The pay deal is good news for the troubled mining sector in South Africa. Investors have been rattled in recent months by labour unrest, policy uncertainty and depressed commodity prices.

Coal producers and unions agreed in June to retain a collective bargaining framework for wage talks in 2017, defusing friction after NUM threatened to go on strike if mining firms negotiated on a company-by-company basis.

Source: Mining Weekly

Platinum, palladium, rhodium on 3-way price parity path – Northam

The platinum group metals (PGM) market may be heading for three-way price parity, Northam Platinum CEO Paul Dunne pointed out when the company presented a 60% rise in operating profit to R614-million in the 12 months to June 30, reflecting the benefits of the company’s growth strategy, mechanisation at the Booysendal mine and improved palladium and chrome prices.

A higher PGM basket price and higher chrome revenue translated into a 44%-greater year-on-year group cash profit of R5 314 per equivalent refined platinum ounce, on a sales revenue of R6.9-billion. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video).

Dunne remains confident that, over time, PGM demand will grow and supply will shrink, resulting in a more positive price environment for PGM metals.

The company’s mechanised Booysendal – which has an operating margin of 17% – produced well above its nameplate capacity at just under 200 000 oz, with progress at the Booysendal South project adding promise.

Despite labour unrest at the Zondereinde mine, output of 280 172 oz was within a hair’s breadth of last year’s 282 765 oz, at an operating margin of 3.6%.

“The company represents the best risk-adjusted return in the platinum sector,” Dunne told Creamer Media’s MiningWeekly Online at an investor and media briefing where he
emphasised the importance of cost control to maintain the company’s competitive position “in this very difficult market”.

Group costs of R19 736/oz of platinum were 4.6% higher, while perating cash flow increased by 17% to R981.5-million and the cash balance at year-end was R1.8-billion, CFO Ayanda Khumalo reported.

While the platinum price struggles below the $1 000/oz mark, the higher palladium price has provided some support for the basket price as price movements suggest a move towards three-way parity with rhodium.

“However, we must say that overall price performance remains lacklustre and continues to be a source of great concern to our sector,” cautioned Dunne, who described the negative sentiment towards platinum and PGMs in general and the emphasis on the emergence of battery electric vehicles as being overdone.

“Today’s internal combustion engines are clean, efficient and economic to run. In our view, the adoption of battery technology will remain constrained owing to the inherent fundamental chemistry of the battery itself,” he commented.

Capital expenditure (capex) is estimated at R1.3-billion in this financial year, comprising R109-million on sustaining capex and R1.2-billion expansionary capex as Northam grows production down the cost curve, both organically and through acquisition.

Acquisitions include the Tumela block’s mineral resourcesfrom Anglo American Platinum for R1-billion; the acquisition of Eland Platinum mine from Glencore Operations South Africa for R175- million; and subsequent to year-end, the PGM recycling assets in Pennsylvania, US, from A-1 Specialised Services for $10.7-million.

At operational level, the company’s record three-million fatality-free shifts at Booysendal reflect the benefits of the mechanised mining method, with a graphic flashed on to a large screen showing the huge magnitude of safety difference between the conventional Zondereinde and the mechanised Booysendal.

Milled tonnage for the combined operations increased by 6.3% to 4.4-million tonnes, largely on the back of growth at the mechanised Booysendal.

The production of chrome in concentrate increased by 8% to 581 000 t on higher upper group two (UG2) tonnage milled at Booysendal and chrome has become “a very important segment for Northam”. Total revenue per platinum ounce has increased 11% owing to higher chrome and palladium pricing.

The higher production failed to translate into a similar increase in sales volumes, but this will end with the commissioning by year-end of the new furnace at the Zondereinde smelter, where a new drying plant and furnace have to date absorbed capex of R671.6-million.

Capex in the current financial year is expected to reach the R1.3-billion mark, with R109-million of it sustaining and the rest expansionary.

The operational outlook for Northam is healthy. It has a stable production base at Zondereinde and a growing production profile from Booysendal, which is on a particularly strong position on the cost curve.

It is envisaged that Zondereinde will benefit from the Tumelaacquisition over the next three years, raising its production profile to 350 000 oz.

Booysendal South is expected to boost the total Booysendal production profile to 500 000 oz, with the Eland operation contributing 150 000 oz on a five-year ramp-up.

As the company still has a large capital expansion programme ahead of it, project execution will be key to meet the its rising market expectations.

 

Source: Mining Weekly

PRICE INCREASE NOTICE

Dear Valued Customers,

Please click on the following link for the latest price increase notice :

Price Increase 1st September 2017

Kind Regards,

Ropa Mhlanga

Operations Director – Southern African Region

Technology set to unleash mining innovation – Anglo’s O’Neill

In the next ten years, technology is set to unleash a wave of mining innovation, with the sweet spot centred on changing the thinking around ore bodies and processing plants rather than much-spoken-about automation.

“Our focus has changed from hunting technologies to hunting value,” Anglo American technical director Tony O’Neill told Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly Online in an exclusive interview.

Three-dimensional metal printing, non explosive breakage of rock and microwave preconditioning of rock, as well as medical imaging equipment, are finding rapid application in mineral mining and processing.

The word in the industry is that mining companies that embrace the new era will be successful and the ones that do not will ultimately not survive. Anticipated are mines with footprints that can more readily coexist alongside a community in much the same way as farming.

The good news is that pathways are already starting to develop that change the current mining and processing paradigm.

Technologies are being reconfigured to make mining and processing far more precise, which offers massive potential reward.

Currently, much larger volumes of waste are brought to surface, compared with the scenario more than a century ago. This is because, outside of safety improvements, old methods are still being used today. For instance, in 1900, to obtain 40 kg of copper, 2 t of material had to be mined using 3 m3 of water and 10 kWh of energy, compared with currently having to mine 16 times more material, using 16 times more energy and drawing on double the volume of water.

“It’s risen at such a rate that it’s becoming unsustainable,” O’Neill commented to Mining Weekly Online.

While mining was, in the past, content to be a research and development laggard, other industries were not – and they shot ahead on the technological front, proving up technology that is now available off the shelf for mining to implement.

A successful pilot plant is already pointing the way for the more widespread introduction of coarse-particle recovery, which brings considerably larger-sized particles to surface and slashes water use.

Moreover, with the maturing of robotics technology, research is also being conducted into the introduction of swarm robotic mining, involving the use of small robots that will bring ultra-precision to a hugely wasteful industry.

As more precise mining methods gather momentum, those 40 kg of copper used to illustrate mining’s deteriorating position may one day be mined without any waste at all.

Coarse-particle recovery and advanced fragmentation (using smart blasting technologies) are good examples of putting existing technologies into new configurations to deliver value right now.

None of the technologies used is unproven, but what Anglo has managed to do is configure them in a way that adds immense value, with minimal additional capital investment.

While technology will have to be honed specifically for mining at some stage, a surfeit of technologies is ready for instant application.

“It’s more about a mindset change than having to make massive investments,” Anglo American technology development head Donovan Waller added to MiningWeekly Online.

Much of the improvement is being driven by data science and the modern world’s ability to analyse increasing volumes of data to a very high degree.

Virtually all the technologies needed have come of age; one of the biggest being the stabilisation of information technology, in which other industries have tended to advance much faster than the mining industry. These other industries include consumer electronics, manufacturing, automotive engineering and the pharmaceutical sector.

COARSE-PARTICLE RECOVERY

The coarse-particle recovery process captures coarse particles that are not recoverable using conventional flotation.

By needing to grind to only 500 micron instead of 170 micron, capacity is increased. Less energy is required in the crushing and grinding and water is more easily extracted from the larger particles and then recycled, significantly reducing the need for fresh water. The extraction of interstitial water results in a dry product, which can be dry-stacked, ultimately eliminating the need for tailings dams.

In copper, coarse-particle flotation has the potential to change the cost curve of the industry by allowing for 30% to 40% more throughput at a recovery loss of 2% to 3%, a 20% energy saving and 30% to 40% less water.

This is already a significant achievement for Anglo American in copper, and the company is hopeful of migrating it to other commodities, including platinum in South Africa, where test work is still at an early stage.

If, for example, platinum ore can be pre-sorted in advance and be presented at a grade of 10 g/t instead of 4 g/t, output can be increased by two-and-a-half times from the exact same capital invested.

SWARM ROBOTIC MINING

Swarm robotic mining descales mining to make it much more precise, mimicking the actions of a swarm of locusts devouring a field or an army of ants working independently to execute tasks.

The technology envisages highly selective mining of ore types linked to real-time algorithms across a broad spectrum that includes constraints in energy, prices and associated issues.

As many people as possible are taken out of harm’s way in a remotely controlled environment.

Small operational teams will communicate with each other, without the need for a big-brother view from the surface that controls each of those small operational elements independently in self-learning operations.

WATERLESS MINES

Currently, the industry spends a lot of time adding water to its processes and even more time trying to get the water out afterwards.

A pathway has been developed to end up with a waterless mine through the adoption of a closed loop, using only a fixed amount of water that is then recycled time and again. Anglo already recycles or re-uses more than 60% of its water requirements.

Ultimately, the aim is to arrive at potentially chemical means that allow for the liberation of particles without having to add water to them, to arrive at a waterless process.

SUN, WIND, GRAVITY AND SMALL, GREEN NUCLEAR

In terms of energy, the focus is on using renewables for energy self-sufficiency.

The solutions will be a combination of sun and wind. As the sun does not shine at night and the wind does not always blow, other energy forms, including gravity, will take advantage of the mining sector having depth as one of those solutions.

Ultimately, nuclear may be incorporated should it become “greener”, smaller and more modular, as is expected.

MODULAR CONCEPT

Instead of spending billions to build one big plant, small modular plants will be built and scaled up quickly, with the lifespan of the modules being influenced by the next step up in technology.

Mines will move away from using the same technology for long periods of time and outlaying large capital expenditure on plants that last for 50 years and more.

Smaller, modular, cheaper units will allow for technology upgrades every five years, providing scalability as well as the opportunity to ramp up on new technology that has arisen.

Although mining is not an industry that has been used to technological change, there is no reason why it should not, from now on, accelerate advancing technology quickly, as other industries do.

“Our Future Smart Mining program is about far more than technologies alone. It is end-to-end innovation, in its broadest sense, addressing all aspects of sustainability for the business – safety, health, the environment, the needs of our communities and host governments, and the reliable delivery of our products to customers. Those that innovate and are agile will thrive in this industry. That is mining’s new future.” O’Neill concluded.

 

Source: Mining Weekly

Continued reciprocal trade between S Africa, Australia predicted

Despite the current economic climate in South Africa and the global downturn in mining, owing to low commodity prices, South Africa and Australia will continue to build their reciprocal trade relationship, says law firm ENSafrica.

“South Africa is Australia’s biggest trading partner on the African continent and Australia has more mining projects in Africa than anywhere else in the world,” ENSafrica mining director Lloyd Christie tells Mining Weekly.

He adds that Australia looks westward for investment opportunities and recognises South Africa as its port of entry into Africa and the Southern African Development Community, which includes 15 African countries. “Australia continues to build on a constructive and mutually beneficial business relationship with South Africa.”

South Africa and Australia have similar legal systems, business cultures and practices, as well as accounting practices; and both countries are also well endowed with mineral resources and technical expertise, says Christie.

 These common traits make it easy to facilitate trade and, with the two countries forming the Australia–South Africa Joint Ministerial Commission in 1997, collaboration has increased ever since, he elaborates.

To aid continued collaboration, the Australia–Africa Minerals and Energy Group was established in 2010 to facilitate active engagements between the continents’ mineral resources industries.

Christie points out that, according to employers organisation the Australian Industry Group, there has been a 10% yearly average increase in trade between South Africa and Australiain the past five years.

“This serves as motivation to reinforce the relationship with Australian counterparts and continue attending events that facilitate trade.”

Therefore, ENSafrica will attend the annual Africa Down Under conference for the second time from September 6 to 8 in Perth, Western Australia, to interact and network with clients and investors, and learn about the latest developments in mining in Australia and Africa.

Further, Christie says legal certainty, which is an issue in some African countries, is often a consideration for investors, especially foreign investors such as Australia, when deciding to enter new markets.

“Africa’s labour unrest and factious industrial relations might also scare off mining investors. But, with the global miningindustry having to endure depressed commodities markets for many years, volatility is a natural consequence in any mining jurisdiction.”

He adds that declining commodity prices and profit margins can, ultimately, put strain on employee circumstances, as companies threaten retrenchment and are unable to increase wages. This is not unique to Africa, and is typically not an environment conducive to investment.

Regardless, there are still indicators of continued interest and investment in South Africa and other African countries, says Christie.

ENSafrica mining director Ntsiki-Adonisi Kgame says Australian mining companies still remain significant employers in Africa, which also encourages innovation and skills transfer between the involved countries.

“We’ve seen skills migration from South Africa to Australia, especially in terms of deep-level mining expertise. Australiahas recognised South Africa’s proficiency in this regard and has benefited from that skills transfer.”

ENSafrica plays a significant role in representing South African and Australian mining entities – such as diversified miners BHP Billiton and South32 – when navigating mergers, legislation and general trade issues regarding mineral resources.

 

Source: Mining Weekly

 

 

 

Efforts to reposition balance sheet, price improvements lift Glencore’s H1 earnings

Diversified mining and marketing company Glencore said “extensive efforts” to reposition its balance sheet and propel the company’s industrial asset portfolio improvements over the last two years were reflected in its strong interim financial performance.

The group on Thursday published its financial results for the six months to June 30, with adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) and earnings before interest and taxes (Ebit) up 68% and 334%, respectively, year-on-year.

Net debt decreased by $1.6-billion to $13.9-billion between December 31, 2016, and June 30.

Earnings a share increased to $0.17 a share from a loss of $0.03 a share in 2016.

CEO Ivan Glasenberg said that, after a number of years of challenging commodity and economic conditions and declining prices, the recovery seen in late 2016 had continued into the first half of this year, which occurred amid the “best growth momentum” in the global economy in recent years.

Reflecting the success of its efforts to reposition the group during the recent economic downturn, adjusted Ebitda increased by about 70% to $6.7-billion during the six months under review, while net profit attributable to equity holders increased to $2.5-billion from a loss in the prior period.

Glasenberg said the turnaround was underpinned by higher prices for most commodities, resulting in margin expansion across Glencore’s key industrial assets and its “highly cash generative” marketing business.

Marketing performed above the implied run-rate of the $2.3-billion to $2.6-billion full-year guidance range provided in May.

First-half marketing adjusted Ebit was $1.4-billion, which was up 13% year-on-year, which was supported by generally supportive market conditions across the board as improving fundamentals created a more supportive marketing environment for the group’s core commodities.

Glasenberg commented that, supporting this result, evidence of the group’s efforts to reinforce the company’s “leading low cost positions” was seen during the period, with adjusted Ebitda mining margins up 36% in metals and 141% in coal.

“As we look forward, the potential large-scale roll-out of electric vehicles and energy storage systems looks set to unlock material new sources of demand for enabling underlying commodities, including copper, cobalt, zinc and nickel.

“Our portfolio of tier one commodities underpins our ambition to create significant long-term value for our shareholders,” he noted.

 

Source: Mining Weekly

 

Lonmin to sell excess processing capacity, implement other measures to ensure sustainability

Despite “pleasing” third-quarter production results, which showed an improved mining performance, reduced unit costs and increased net cash in July, platinum mining major Lonmin remains concerned by the persistent adverse macroeconomic conditions, as well as the inflationary cost pressures confronting the platinum mining industry.

The company, which is headed up by CEO and COO Ben Magara, will, therefore, implement further measures to ensure that its operations generate sufficient cash to support a sustainable business, it noted in a statement on Monday.

This follows the initial conclusion of an ongoing review of Lonmin’s operations, which has the primary objective of preserving value for shareholders and safeguarding the long-term interests of employees and all key stakeholders.

The operational review is focused on enhancing the cash produced by the business – from its operations and through releasing capital from those activities where the company is currently bearing the cost of excess capacity and unrealised development potential.

“The review is also designed to position the company to benefit from any future improvement in the platinum-group metals (PGM) pricing environment,” Lonmin stated.

The immediate results of the operational review include initiatives to generate cash through the monetisation of select Lonmin assets and to preserve cash by reducing fixed costs.

Lonmin plans to implement several measures, which will be subject to receiving the necessary consents and approvals.

The measures include pursuing all options to maximise cash from Lonmin’s high-quality downstream processing operations. Lonmin plans to achieve this through the sale of excess processing capacity of up to 500 000 oz/y of platinum.

“This would have the benefit not only of releasing capital for Lonmin, but would also allow other South African PGM producers who currently operate on a sale of concentrate basis to access the profit margin benefits of an integrated beneficiation model,” the company stated.

Lonmin will further implement a review of the company’s major development capital requirements over the next few years. In this regard, Lonmin will consider selling for cash or introducing joint venture partners into Limpopo and Akanani, together with exploring options to introduce funding partners into K4.

Meanwhile, despite a consistent strong performance from the Rowland shaft, Lonmin notes that its current capital position makes it challenging to fund the MK2 project, which is necessary to extend Rowland’s economic life.

While Lonmin believes that the MK2 project will be value-accretive, the company will explore options to introduce funding partners and preserve about 5 000 jobs.

Lonmin also aims to implement a reduction in yearly overhead costs by a minimum of R500-million by the end of the 2018 financial year. The substantial majority of overhead reductions will come from nonproduction central functions as the company seeks to right-size its overheads to its operations.

Lonmin will also continue to identify further overhead and cost savings.

While it is too early to define the ultimate effect of the operational review on the company, the overall aim remains for the business to be cash positive after capital investment.

Lonmin noted that further announcements will be made “as and when appropriate”.

 

Source: Mining Weekly

NUM, ANC ‘very encouraging’ – Royal Bafokeng Platinum

Royal Bafokeng Platinum CEO Steve Phiri said on Tuesday that he was “very encouraged” by the stance taken the day before by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

“We can only improve the situation if we work together and not against each other,” Phiri outlined to Mining Weekly Online in an interview after the company reported a R31.9-million loss in the first six months of this year. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video).

“We’re very encouraged by the statements released by ANC yesterday and this morning, which raises serious concern about the damage Mining Charter Three does to the mining industry and the economy of this county.

“We hope that we’ll see something different in a few days, few weeks, few months to come,” said the head of the 52% black-community-owned Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed platinum mining company.

On Monday, NUM expressed fears that the South African mining sector, which had already shed more than 80 000 jobs over the past five years, would shed tens of thousands more jobs and called for the resignation of Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, citing a complete breakdown in relations.

Phiri described as “very encouraging” the supportive comments of ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe, who in an interview with Radio 702 host Xolani Gwala referred to the private sector, the government and the ANC as being economic partners.

LOSSMAKING PLATINUM SECTOR

In the tough economic environment which has resulted in 70% “or more” of the platinum industry being lossmaking, Royal Bafokeng Platinum has been forced to respond by discontinuing mining upper group two (UG2) reef at the Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine’s (BRPM’s) South Shaft, restructuring to match to the declining South Shaft resource, lowering unit costs to below the consumer price index, increasing tonnes milled by 14.3% and holding down year-on-year unit costs at BRPM.

Capital expenditure (capex) at the Styldrift 1 expansion, on which R7.23-billion has been invested to date, has been tailored to a 150 000 t a month ramp-up in the last quarter of 2018.

Company funding has been bolstered by the raising of a R1.2-billion convertible bond and the concluding of debt facilities totalling R2-billion.

Against this arduous backdrop, Phiri, who leads a 52% black-owned company, has refused to mince his words in condemning South Africa’s legislative and mining policy environment.

“We certainly can do better without the value-destructive Mining Charter Three. How the industry is supposed to understand and comply with it defies any stretch of the imagination,” said Phiri, 61, a former public prosecutor, who decried the document as “shabbily drafted, confused and ambiguous”.

He reminded the government that many still toiling in the mining industry had also helped to transform the sector by playing key roles in the formulation of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act in 2002 and 2003 – “from nothingness, where the industry gave up private ownership of mineral rights, and shareholders sacrificed equity without any compulsion”.

The first and second mining charters also came about by participants willingly shedding value through negotiation.

He condemned those latecomers who now condemned such trailblazing transformers as being anti-transformational.

As a crucial Constitutional imperative, transformation should come by way of a charter that was realistic, achievable and sustainable and not something that caused economic downfall.

“Transformation should not, as a matter of principle, be used as a populist football. We should not produce an unrealistic and unachievable piece of work and sugar-coat it as transformation, when it is so bitter and unpalatable to the core.

“It will implode on us, certainly. The industry will fall flat, capital will be chased away and so will growth remain a myth. Jobs will be lost.

“We hope that, in the end, wisdom will prevail and a realistic charter, with realistic targets, will be achieved through honest and meaningful engagement,” he said.

STYLDRIFT PROJECT

Royal Bafokeng Platinum reported a 70% increase in tonnes delivered from Styldrift, an 8.9% improvement in tonnes milled per employee, a 9.4% increase in four-element (4E) metals in concentrate and zero fatalities in the six months to June 30.

The low price environment resulted in a 9.8% reduction in average rand revenue basket price, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation being cut by two-thirds to R100.4-million from R305.3-million in the same period last year, and headline earnings per share collapsing to 15.3c a share from 77.8c in the corresponding period of last year.

But despite the stringency, the company remained steadfast in spending R15.9-million in the half-year on its social and labour plan commitments, which was up on last year’s R13.8-million.

Moreover, 86.3% of its total discretionary procurement spend was with historically disadvantaged companies.

The closure of the nonprofitable South Shaft UG2 production sections and redeploying 60% of the UG2 mining crews to superior-margin Merensky at South and North shafts and UG2 production at North Shaft has enabled the company to maintain current levels of platinum group metals production but with the enhanced effect of the base metals revenue that accompanies Merensky production and optimised processing arrangements equating to
R37-million a year.

Net revenue decreased by 3.2% from R1 646.9-million in the first half of 2016 to R1 593.9-million for the first half of 2017.

The company’s gross profit margin reduced from 11.4% for the first six months of last year to 0.7% for the six months ended June 30 this year on the 3.2% decrease in net revenue and the 8.5% increase in total cost of sales.

Total capex for the period under review increased by 63.8% to R847-million on the first half of last year.

Replacement capex fell by R33-million to R10-million and expansion capex increased by 86.1% to R778-million on the acceleration of construction at the Styldrift I project.

Stay-in-business capex increased by 5.4% to R59-million.

The total mining scope of the BRPM Phase III replacement project has been completed with only construction activities related to services, conveyor belts and associated bulkheads on 14 and 15 levels remaining.

A technical planning review of the Phase III extraction schedule has indicated that these levels will only be required to come on line during the second quarter of 2019, allowing capex to be deferred to 2018 without any negative impact on extraction.

During the reporting period, a total of 3 328 m of capital development was completed on 600 and 642 levels of Styldrift I, with 238 000 t of ore being delivered to the concentrator at a built-up head grade of 2.53 g/t 4E.

Key construction activities being undertaken include overland belt construction, services shaft equipping, ventilation shaft No 3 construction, silo No 3 and No 4 construction, 600 Level permanent trackless workshop and ancillary service bays construction, settler No 1 slip and line activities and conveyor belt construction on 600 and 642 levels.

In line with project execution resource requirements, there are 23 mining and construction crews operational on site.

MARKET REVIEW

The platinum price started the year close to $900/oz., rose to above $1 000/oz. in February, but subsequently weakened to end the first half not far above where it started the year. The rand remained relatively strong against the US dollar in the first half of 2017 at around R13.20. This led to platinum prices in rand terms dipping below R12 000/oz. on a number of occasions during the first half of 2017, to lows not seen since November 2015.

Platinum production is forecast to be 2.5% lower this year as both primary and secondary supply ease. Primary supply is estimated to be down 2% year-on-year on lower output from Southern Africa. Secondary supply is expected to contract as lower recycling of jewellery in China is likely to more than offset a modest recovery in auto catalyst recycling.

However, lacklustre platinum prices are reflecting limited buying by end-users as overall demand, excluding investment, is forecast to soften year-on-year.

Western Europe remains the largest diesel market, but diesel market share continues to decrease, particularly in the small car segment.

Diesel share in larger cars remains relatively stable, while in heavy-duty vehicles, diesel is currently the only viable option.

Purchasing of platinum by Chinese jewellery fabricators in platinum’s largest market has not improved from a weak 2016. Platinum trading on the Shanghai Gold Exchange in the first half of 2017 was a third lower than in the first half of 2016, although this reflects industrial as well as jewellery demand.

Investment demand has been steady so far this year with platinum exchange traded funds (ETFs) adding 83 000 oz in the first six months, resulting in global ETF holdings increasing to about 2.6-million ounces. Platinum bar purchases were low in the first quarter owing to the high platinum price. However, weaker prices during the second quarter lifted buying.

Overall, the industrial market balance is projected to be in a modest surplus in 2017. If the platinum price remained weak in the second half of the year this would raise the risk of closures of unprofitable mining areas which could move the market closer to balance.

Palladium started the year trading at $676/oz and although volatile, the price continued to trend higher through the first six months of the year. Temporary tightness in palladium ingot availability resulted in the price briefly pushing through $900/oz in June before it eased back to end the month at $842/oz, up 25% for the year to date.

Palladium demand is expected to be little changed in 2017 as a slight increase in auto catalyst demand is offset by small declines in jewellery and industrial usage.

The rhodium price has continued its recovery in 2017, rising 35% to $1 040/oz during the first half of the year. However, while the price may have improved, the market still remains well supplied. Removal of unprofitable ounces from the market could move the market close to balance or into slight deficit.

 

Source: Mining Weekly

Moratorium aside, Zwane approves Lonmin’s bid to acquire Anglo’s Pandora stake

Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi  Zwane has given platinum major Lonmin the go-ahead to acquire Anglo American Platinum’s (Amplats) 42.5% stake in the Pandora platinum joint venture (JV) operation, which saves the 3 000 jobs that would have been lost had the operation been placed under care and maintenance.

Zwane granted consent for the cession of the right in terms of Section 11 of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act.

With Lonmin having acquired the remaining 7.5% stake in the Pandora platinum operation from Northam Platinum in May, this acquisition increases Lonmin’s ownership interest in the Pandora JV to 92.5%.

Before the acquisition, the Pandora JV was 50% held by Lonmin subsidiary Eastern Platinum, 42.5% by Amplats through Rustenburg Platinum and 7.5% by Northam, through Mvelaphanda Resources Proprietary.

“One of our primary considerations when assessing [Lonmin’s] application was how we were best going to prevent retrenchments at the time,” noted the Minister in a statement released Wednesday.

“We are indeed pleased that we have been able to save 3 000 jobs, particularly in the current global economic climate.”

Zwane added, however, that Lonmin had five days to issue the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) with a plan on how it would address broad-based black economic-empowerment compliance at Pandora, as the DMR “cannot afford a situation where transformation is compromised”.

“We are a reasonable regulator and apply our laws consistently to all right-holders. We continue to appeal to right-holders to make use of our open-door policy and engage with us frankly and openly on issues pertaining to this critical sector of our economy. We will always put the interests of South Africa and its people first in all our deliberations,” concluded Zwane.

The Minister’s approval of Lonmin’s application to acquire Amplats’ stake in Pandora comes amidst his proposed moratorium on the granting or renewal of mining and prospecting rights, the granting of mining and prospecting rights renewals, the granting of applications for the transfer of mining and prospecting rights, and the sale and transfer of a majority shareholding in holders of these rights, which has been met with the contempt of the public and civil society organisations, who have dismissed the move as illegal, irrational and unreasonable.

Zwane has essentially proposed that these activities be restricted until the High Court delivers its judgement on the implementation of Mining Charter 3.

The Minister’s proposal is open for public comment until August 4.

 

Source: Mining Weekly

Botswana invites bids for coal-to-liquids project

The Botswana government is seeking prospective bidders for the establishment of a coal-to-liquids plant in the Southern African county, with support from its State-owned oil company, Botswana Oil.

Botswana Oil, which manages State-owned strategic fuel reserve facilities, says in a prequalification tender advertisement that the project aims to diversify Botswana’s economy and attain fuel self-sufficiency through the exploitation of the country’s abundant coal resources.

The invitation is extended to prospective private companies and parastatal bidders to undertake a bankable feasibility study for the design, financing, construction, ownership, operation and maintenance of a coal-to-liquids plant in Botswana, which will be facilitated by Botswana Oil.

The bids, which must be in by August 2, follow the closing on July 12 of a request for proposals for owners of coalbed methane (CBM) prospecting licences to develop a 100 MW CBM pilot power plant.

At the Botswana Resource Sector Conference in June, Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Minister Sadique Kebonang expressed the government’s determination to better its legislative framework and policies to ensure the country becomes more investor friendly, against a backdrop of low foreign direct investment in the country.

Botswana Oil is mandated to ensure security of petroleum supply for Botswana, where it manages State-owned strategic fuel reserve facilities, strategic stocks as well as bulk storage and distribution in the petroleum sector.

 

Source: Mining Weekly