Gross tonnes milled at Impala Platinum managed operations improved by 18% to 6.13 million tonnes during the quarter ending September 2020, compared to 5.21 million tonnes achieved in the prior comparable period.
The increase was primarily due to the maiden inclusion of Impala Canada, but production gains at Marula also aided this performance and helped offset slightly lower milled volumes from Impala Rustenburg and Zimplats.
The resolution of milling challenges experienced at its joint ventures (JVs) resulted in higher volumes from both Two Rivers and Mimosa during the period. As a result, 6E in concentrate production of 623 000 ounces at managed operations was 11% higher than in the prior comparable quarter.
JV production from Mimosa and Two Rivers increased by 23% and helped offset the impact of lower third-party receipts in the period. Total 6E concentrate volumes rose by 82 000 ounces, or 11%, to 859 000 ounces.
Refined 6E production in the prior comparable period was significantly impacted by planned maintenance at the Zimplats furnace and Impala Rustenburg’s smelting complex, which constrained processing capacity.
During the period under review, gross refined volumes benefitted from the accelerated processing maintenance across the Group and the inclusion of saleable production from Impala Canada. In total, gross refined 6E production increased by 58% to 870 000 ounces (Q1 FY2020: 551 000 ounces).
Milled production at Impala Rustenburg decreased by 2% to 2.96 million tonnes negatively impacted by the residual effect of Covid-19 on labour availability, declining reserves at the short-life shafts (6 and 9 shafts) and increased Eskom power failures.
Higher delivered grade of 3.93 g/t (Q1 FY2020: 3.88 g/t) and improved recoveries and yield gains resulted in stable 6E in concentrate production of 346 000 ounces. Refined 6E production increased significantly to 372 000 ounces (Q1 FY2020: 184 000 ounces) and benefitted from greater availability of processing capacity due to the timing of scheduled maintenance in the previous comparable period.
Marula continues to deliver improvements in operational momentum. Tonnes milled increased by 8% to 525 000 tonnes (Q1 FY2020: 488 000 tonnes), benefitting from a quick ramp up following Covid-related interruptions, a step change in safety performance, the notable absence of community disruptions and improved mining performance.
Mill grade decreased by 2% to 4.33 g/t (6E) (Q1 FY2020: 4.43 g/t) but 6E in concentrate production improved in line with higher milled tonnage to 68 000 ounces during the period (Q1 FY2020: 63 000 ounces).
Operational delivery during the first quarter was impacted by the residual impact of Covid-related challenges at the mine site and planned underground infrastructure enhancements, which were completed in the period under review. Milled throughput of 980 000 tonnes and a 6E head grade of 2.48 g/t yielded 6E in concentrate production of 61 000 ounces.
The impact of Covid-19 infections in the broader Mimosa community were well controlled, benefitting from the protocols and practices implemented at the onset of the pandemic. In Q1 FY2020, concentrate production at Mimosa lagged mined volumes due to extended repairs to the milling circuit.
In the period under review, mined volumes improved by 12%, while milled tonnage of 724 000 tonnes and 6E in concentrate production of 67 000 ounces both improved by 23% from the previous comparable quarter.
The delayed return of foreign employees following Covid-related national border closures impacted staffing levels at Two Rivers in the early weeks of the reporting period, but the mine had returned to full staffing and production levels by mid-quarter.
Concentrate production volumes in Q1 FY2020 were heavily impacted by extended maintenance and metallurgical challenges at the concentrator plant, which were resolved during FY2020.
In the period under review, tonnes milled were flat at 802 000 tonnes (Q1 FY2020: 798 000 tonnes), while a 1% decrease in mill grade to 3.37g/t was more than compensated for by improved plant performance and recoveries. As a result, 6E production in concentrate rose by 23% to 75 000 ounces (Q1 FY2020: 61 000 ounces).
IMPALA REFINING SERVICES
Gross receipts at IRS increased by 18% to 474 000 6E ounces (Q1 FY2020: 399 000 ounces). The rebound in mine-to-market deliveries marginally offset weaker third-party deliveries, which declined by 6% or 6 000 ounces. Refined production increased by 21% to 443 000 ounces (Q1 FY2020: 366 000 ounces) with volumes benefitting from improved availability at Group processing facilities.