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Johannesburg - Lonmin, the third largest primary platinum producer in the world, said on Monday that it had sustained improvement in mining production since March as it announced its results for the third quarter ended 30 June.

The Marikana mining operations in North West, including Pandora, produced 2.7 million tonnes during the third quarter, an increase of 3.8 percent or 97,000 tonnes on the prior year period despite the poor start to the financial year.

Ben Magara, Lonmin chief executive, said the company had a pleasing operational performance all round and would continue working towards its aim of being at least cash neutral even at current low platinum group metals prices and a strong rand. 

"I am pleased that with the right team in place, our mining turnaround has been sustained. I am grateful to our employees who have worked hard to produce the results we are seeing. We continue to find levers to pull, in this "lower prices for longer" environment and to make the improvement of our performance a priority," Magara said.

"I am particularly pleased that our net cash has improved. Despite the difficult global macro-economics and the complex and challenging socio political operating environment, we are still able to find common ground for Lonmin to deliver this sustained improved performance."

The socio political operating environment Magara was speaking about refers to the community unrest that forced Lonmin to halt production in May at some of its mining shafts while losing of millions of rand as protesting Bapo ba Mogale community members demanded jobs from the miner and threatened its workers.  

"We are working with community leaders and have enlisted assistance from labour and other key stakeholders to assist us to create a stable operating environment," Lonmin said.

Read also: Lonmin falls 11% on lower production

"Contractors have also been engaged, where possible, to make opportunities for job creation for community members.  Generally the community relations around the operations are improving.

Production lost due to Section 54 safety stoppages, which are issued to ensure compliance with the Mine Health and Safety Act, totalled only 44,000 tonnes in the quarter, at least 199,000 tonnes better than the prior year period. 

Two Lonmin workers were killed in tramming accidents during the period. The overall number of deaths stood at five fatalities during the first nine months. 

Lonmin maintained its sales guidance of between 650,000 platinum ounces to 680,000 Platinum ounces, without any unexpected interruptions to the smooth running of mining production while continuing its strategy of minimising capital expenditure.