THE World Platinum Investment Council (WPIC) says Zimbabwe is on track to ramping up output of the white metal to an all-time high of 502 kilo ounces (koz) following massive investment by one of the country’s top miners.
The southern African nation has one of the largest known platinum reserves in the world together with South Africa and Russia.
According to a new report done by the United Kingdom based-WPIC, the third quarter of 2023 saw a consolidation of several demand themes across the platinum market, with supply remaining constrained, and demand robust, with the exception of some weakness in the investment markets.
The report shows that mining supply increased by 2% year-on-year to 1,418 koz in Q3’23, underpinned by Southern Africa. South African production increased by 19 koz to 996 koz and Zimbabwean output increased by 13 koz in the third quarter.
South African production represented the first quarterly of year-on-year growth since the fourth quarter of 2021 and was led by better management of load curtailment and less downstream processing capacity downtime.
“Zimbabwe’s production is on track to reach an all-time high of 502 koz as a result of the commissioning of the third concentrator at Zimplats in 2022,” the report says.
“Furthermore, a new power agreement for the operation should continue to deliver improved power stability.
“Zimbabwe’s quarterly output is estimated to have increased 11% year-on-year (+13 koz) reaching 129 koz, an all-time high. The growth came from Zimplats which realised additional milled volumes from the third concentrator plant, in addition to the impact of scheduled furnace maintenance last year. Output from other producers, Unki and Mimosa, remained virtually unchanged year-on-year.”
In June this year, Zimplats commissioned a new US$100 million concentrator plant to support its US$1.8 billion expansion of the country’s biggest mine.
The platinum producer is currently developing two mines, Bimha and Mupani, and the extra output means the mine requires extra concentrator capacity to process the additional ore. Before the new plant, the mine ran two concentrators at Ngezi and Selous.
A third concentrator — the plant which turns ore into raw materials for platinum extraction — has now been commissioned. Elsewhere, producers decreased inventories during the third quarter of 2023 (Q3’23) leading to an 18 koz net increase in platinum supply.
Russian production decreased year-on-year but, was ahead of expectations as downstream maintenance has been deferred to 2024. Recycling supply has not appeared to benefit from increasing new vehicle sales through 2023.
“Lower end-of-life vehicle availability appears attributable to the longer running of vehicles as mileage decreased during the Covid pandemic,” the report says.
“Furthermore, reports of scrapyards holding out for higher metals prices may be restricting spent autocatalyst availability. Total supply in Q3’23 of 1,770 koz was down 2% year-on-year and 3% quarter-on-quarter. Total demand for Q3’23 was robust at 1,810 koz, up 24% year-on-year.
“Demand benefitted from a 14% year-on-year increase in automotive platinum demand and reduced selling of platinum investment products (11 koz versus 260 koz in Q3’22). Automotive demand growth was underpinned by platinum for palladium substitution, growing vehicle numbers and higher platinum group metal loadings due to tighter emissions legislation.”