Unki Q1 output up 4pc

HARARE - Anglo American Platinum (Amplats)’ Zimbabwe unit Unki production went up four percent to 368 tonnes in the first quarter to March 2014.

The group said the performance was on the back of higher volumes delivered to the concentrator and throughput at mills.

This comes as Amplats’ total production during the quarter slumped 39 percent to 357 000 ounces from 583 000 ounces recorded in prior comparable period due to a crippling strike in South Africa that has forced temporary closure of several of its mines.

Unki — Zimbabwe’s third largest platinum miner — plans to ramp up production to 180 000 tonnes from the current 120 000 tonnes of ore per month.

Production has been on a steady rise since the mine was fully commissioned in January 2011, but it is not yet a significant contributor to Amplats’ 1,5 million ounces annual output.

The mining giant has said it is exploring ways of increasing Unki output to a level that would significantly contribute to the company’s strategy to lower its operating costs.

Other platinum miners in Zimbabwe — holding the world’s second-largest known platinum reserves after South Africa — include Impala Holdings’ Zimplats and Mimosa, a joint venture between the former and Aquarius.

Amplats has so far invested $350 million in Unki.

Last year, the mine produced 67 000 ounces of refined platinum.

According to Amplats, Unki has a life span of up to 2041, which could extend to 2055.

In November 2012, Amplats signed a $143 million agreement, to be financed through future dividends, with Zimbabwe for the transfer of a

51 percent stake to local entities in terms of the government’s empowerment law, which requires majority black control of all foreign firms operating in the country.

Meanwhile, analysts say Zimbabwe’s platinum sector could benefit from the indefinite strike by South African platinum mine workers through increased global platinum prices due to reduced market supply.

This comes as about 70 000 workers at three of South Africa’s largest platinum mines failed to clock in at the beginning of the year after negotiations between their union and the mines failed to reach an agreement, presenting a boon for Zimbabwe’s platinum producers.

The strike affected more than half of the global platinum production as the country accounts for 70 percent of the total 5,74 million ounces produced annually, which may trigger price increases.

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