Dineo Faku

Impala Platinum’s (Implats) share price strengthened by 2.12 percent to R142.79 on Friday after it reported a 17 percent increase in output for the three months to September.

Implats, the world’s second-biggest platinum producer, reported that its gross platinum output rose to 454 000 ounces for the quarter, compared with 388 000 ounces in the corresponding period last year.

Implats said the unit cost a platinum ounce rose 35 percent to R15 326 as it continued to be adversely affected by inflation and lower volumes.

“The combination of wage pressures in South Africa and a weaker rand in Zimbabwe accounted for the bulk of the 15 percent increase in cash costs, while the balance was primarily due to lower volumes, as a result of the protracted ramp-up in production and poor mining quality at Impala Rustenburg,” the company said in a statement.

Implats’ operations ground to a halt in February amid a six-week strike in which it lost 120 000 ounces in output.

Performance at Impala’s Rustenburg mine was restrained by the strike, it said.

“Operational performance continues to be impacted by the uncertain labour climate and as a result still remains well below planned levels.

“The ramp-up to full production, which was anticipated to be completed by the end of the first quarter, has not been achieved,” it said.

It said the mine was operating at between 80 percent and 85 percent of its production levels in the 2011 financial year.

A number of key initiatives have been launched to improve mining quality factors and lower-than-planned development rates.

The tons milled at its Marula operation rose by 4 percent to 409 000 tons.

At Zimplats, its Zimbabwe subsidiary, management continued to negotiate with the government of Zimbabwe on the finalisation of the agreed indigenisation plan.

Minister of Mineral Resources Susan Shabangu, Cosatu and the National Union of Mineworkers had previously blamed Implats’ management for the wave of strikes in the mining sector.

The company has increased its workers’ pay twice since an unprotected strike that ended in February.