Economic challenges weigh down Zim platinum production in Q1

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Tinashe Makichi

Zimbabwe posted a slight dip platinum output during the first quarter of 2019 to 5 000 ounces as economic challenges weighed down operations of platinum producers during the period, According to the World Platinum Investment Council (WPIC) report.

Global refined production however was up 18 percent to 230 000 ounces year-on-year to 1,525 ounces in the first quarter of 2019.

“This increase is mainly attributable to South Africa, where two unplanned furnace outages impacted refined production in the prior year period.

“There was a slight dip in output in Zimbabwe (-5 000 ounces).Total mining supply is estimated at 1,530 ounces for the first quarter, an increase of 245 000 ounces (+19 percent) year-on-year,” said WPIC.

South African output during the period went up 21 percent to 195 000 ounces  year-on-year to 1,105 ounces while smaller increases in output also occurred in North America (+10 000 ounces , project ramp-up), Russia (+25 000 ounces , planned rise in output for 2019) and other regions (+5 000 ounces).

On the outlook, global refined production is forecast to reach 6,400 ounces in 2019 boosted by processing of work-in-progress material that built up in 2018.

According to WPIC, the ramp-up of expansion projects could also contribute an additional 145 000 ounces year-on-year while South African supply is forecast to grow to 4,685 ounces mainly because of this boost from pipeline material.

Supply from North America is set to increase by 45 000 0unces to 400 000 ounces, with up to 20 000 ounces of growth from an expansion project and the balance being a recovery in output in the Sudbury region following processing issues in 2018.

WPIC said production from Zimbabwe should remain stable at 470 000 ounces and a small pipeline release in Russia will mostly be offset by continued alluvial mine depletion to give 670 000 ounces for the year.

Total mining supply is forecast at 6,375 ounces with an estimated restocking of 25 000 ounces in producer inventory.

In the first quarter of 2019 platinum demand increased 32 percent to 2,560 ounces owing to a surge in investment demand.

Industrial usage was essentially flat at 470 000 ounces while auto-catalyst and jewellery demand both declined.

Investment demand increased to 765 000 ounces mostly due to a significant increase in ETF holdings which gained 690 000 ounces, the largest quarterly increase yet seen.