The World Platinum Investment Council (WPIC) says global refined platinum production fell 2% (-37 koz) year-on-year to 1,493 koz in the third quarter as declines in South Africa and North America offset growth from Russia, Zimbabwe and other regions.
Losses from South Africa were the result of ongoing processing plant challenges at the Anglo American Platinum Converter Plant (ACP). Maintenance and risk control measures at the ACP resulted in 20 days lost output for the quarter.
Elsewhere, other producer volumes benefited from improved smelter availability due to maintenance in the prior comparable period. COVID-19 protocols continue to impact mine output as a small number of labour intensive non-mechanised operations build up towards full capacity.
Operations with a high international component of their workforce were impacted by travel restrictions and quarantine procedures. A loss of life incident and associated safety stoppage at an Eastern Limb operation reduced production.
The net effect was South African refined output declining 6% (-66 koz) year-on-year to 1,056 koz. Russian production rose 15% (+26 koz) year-on-year to 200 koz as new refining capacities at Kola were completed.
Zimbabwean output was not disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and rose 4% year-on-year in the quarter, with improved mill performance at two operations offsetting reduced smelter throughput.
In North America, COVID-19 continued to have a modest impact on output as hygiene protocols and maintenance, the latter delayed from earlier in the year, impacted some operations. Production for the quarter fell 10% (-8 koz) year-on-year to 70 koz.
In the US, productivity suffered due to COVID-19 protocols, but output remained flat as an expansion project increased output and falling grades elsewhere were offset by increased throughput.
Canadian production, primarily sourced from nickel mining, declined due to lower grades. The 58 koz global build-up in producer inventory was primarily due to a South African producer rebuilding refined metal stockpiles that were drawn down earlier in the year.
Total recycling was down 6% (-35 koz) in Q3’20 after the dramatic 19% drop in Q2. The re-opening of borders promoted ease of movement by collectors and aggregators of spent autocatalysts, while higher platinum prices aided jewellery recycling.
During Q3’20, the recovery of platinum from spent autocatalysts fell by an estimated 8% (-32 koz) year-on-year to 378 koz. This reflected the ongoing impact of lockdown restrictions, especially in the US and Europe.
A reduction in the volume of cars that were being scrapped also played a part, as demand for second-hand vehicles rose as some sought to avoid using public transport due to COVID-19 risks.
However, there was a partial offset as smelters and refiners continued to work through material that had been accumulated, both during 2019 and early 2020.
As economic activity improved in Q3’20, as COVID-19 restrictions eased further, global jewellery recycling declined by 3% (-4 koz). This was despite the boost in Chinese volumes from successful promotion of retailer product exchange schemes.