File image: Reuters

Johannesburg - Anglo American Platinum‚ the world’s largest platinum producer‚ saw a sharp drop in production of the metal during the fourth quarter of the year‚ but it offset these declines by exploiting its pipeline stocks to keep refined metal output steady.

Amplats‚ which is 80% owned by Anglo American‚ said production was hit by unprotected strikes during October at its Rustenburg mines as well as Union and Amandelbult. The mines only restarted production in mid-November and have been ramping up to pre-strike production levels.

Equivalent refined platinum production for the fourth quarter of 2012 to end-December fell 34% quarter on quarter to 416‚000oz. These are ounces produced by Amplats and its joint venture partners.

“Production and costs for 2012 were impacted by the illegal industrial action and the subsequent ramp up‚ with 273‚000oz of equivalent refined platinum production lost during the fourth quarter of 2012‚” Amplats said.

Refined platinum coming out of the company‚ or finished metal ready for sale‚ was down just 1% year-on-year to 704‚000oz as the company processed stocks in its pipeline‚ which will have to be replaced during the course of next year. Quarter-on-quarter‚ Amplats said refined metal was up 8%.

Amplats is restructuring its business and it has proposed mothballing four shafts at Rustenburg and idling processing plants. It is also restructuring its Union mine and is looking for a buyer for the operation. It has warned 14‚000 jobs could be lost‚ provoking a furious backlash from the government and unions. - I-Net Bridge