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Amplats completes repair to Phase B unit at processing plant

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(Kitco News) - Anglo American Platinum reported Tuesday that the company has completed repairs to the Phase B unit of the Anglo Converter Plant, with the processing facility expected to be fully operational by May 12 and allow the company to lift its force majeure to suppliers of concentrate.

Natascha Viljoen, chief executive officer, said the repair was completed ahead of schedule, allowing for the restart of refined production of platinum group metals and base metals.

“We have carried out substantial testing to ensure the stability of the ACP Phase B unit, and as we complete the ramp-up, we are engaging with suppliers of concentrate to lift force majeure imminently,” Viljoen said. “All temporary commercial arrangements applicable during the force majeure period will revert to normal commercial terms.”

The disruption of processing at the plant impacted prices of platinum group metals when announced in March since this meant tighter global supplies than otherwise would have been the case.

Amplats, the world’s second-largest platinum producer, declared a force majeure and cut its production guidance after an explosion resulted in the shutdown of the plant’s processing facilities. The blast occurred at a Phase A unit at the Waterval smelter. Then, the company said at the time, the Phase B unit could not take over production when water was detected in the furnace, meaning the risk of another explosion, leading the company to shut down the plant.

Work on Phe phase B unit was able to occur despite a lockdown in South Africa due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said. Repairs on the Phase A unit continue and are progressing as expected.

“Due to the time taken to refine the respective platinum group and base metals, the force majeure notice remains in effect for our refined metal customers,” Viljoen said. “Force majeure arrangements with these customers will be lifted in the future and in line with the provisions of our agreements.”

The company said it will maintain its previously lowered production guidance for 2020, waiting to update this until there is more clarity, with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting mining operations in the country.

Refined output of platinum production decreased 34% in the first quarter to 240,300 ounces, while refined palladium output fell by 26% to 197,100 ounces, the company reported last month. Officials said the refined production was mainly due to the temporary closure of the ACP on March 6, which led to a temporary increase in work-in-progress inventory.

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