In April 2020, Implats provided revised Group guidance for FY2020. The Group cautioned at the time as to the fluidity of the operating environment created by the Covid-19 pandemic and its potential impact on guided production parameters.
Yesterday, Implats decided to provide a further market update ahead of its closed period starting 30 June 2020.
Implats’ Chief Executive Officer, Nico Muller, commented: “Several innovative solutions have been developed by our management teams including different cycles of work and staggered shift systems aimed at enabling the best possible precautionary measures against the spread of Covid-19 among our employees. Through collaboration and co-operation between employees, union structures and management, we have created safer workplaces, and, a better-than-expected production performance across Group operations in the final quarter of FY2020.
Logistical constraints have eased and, despite the undeniable impact of the pandemic on global economic activity, demand for metal from our customers has remained robust, allowing us to capitalise on a reduction in excess inventory and a period of robust rand PGM pricing.
As the pandemic progresses in the coming months, we expect to face increasing challenges to our medical preparedness and operational resilience.
The benefit of experience gained by our team over the past few months, together with the geographical diversification of our operational footprint and the strong financial position of the Group, will prove vital to successfully navigating the expected variability in the near-term operating environment.”
OUTLOOK AND GUIDANCE FOR FY2020
The nationwide lockdown in South Africa, implemented on 26 March 2020, imposed legislated limits on staffing levels at Impala Rustenburg, Marula and the joint venture at Two Rivers, but made allowances for continued operations at the Group’s processing operations.
From 1 June 2020, restrictions on staffing levels were uplifted. However, the need for a prudent and phased approach to intra-provincial travel by employees, particularly those identified as returning from ‘hot spots’, has continued to limit attendance levels at operations in Limpopo and the North West.
Implats has made use of mandatory quarantine and isolation protocols for returning workers from ‘hot spot’ areas to minimise the risk of transmission to its workforce and host communities.
In addition, South Africa’s national borders remain closed and circa 5% of Group employees remain in their home countries.
Despite these limitations on staffing, the ramp-up of production has surpassed initial expectations, with revised operating protocols proving effective in mitigating the impact of potential virus-related interruptions at the Group’s South African mines, which had returned to circa 85% of capacity by mid-June 2020.
Infection rates are expected to peak in South Africa in the coming months, and the challenges associated with screening and identifying Covid-19 cases will be further complicated by the prevalence of seasonal influenza.
It remains Implats’ view that much of FY2021 will be characterised by a ‘BUSINESS UNUSUAL’ operating environment.
Both Zimplats and the joint venture at Mimosa have operated uninterrupted and well within pre-Covid-19 FY2020 guidance. Despite the indefinite extension of the national lockdown, permission to continue mining operations remains in place and, to date, potential risks to output associated with virus-related employee attendance and supply chain and logistical challenges have not materialised. Residual concentrate and matte inventory accumulated in-country during the IRS force majeure period is expected to be delivered to Implats’ Rustenburg processing facilities in full by Q1 FY2021.
At Impala Canada, an outbreak of Covid-19 at the operation in mid-April 2020, necessitated the temporary cessation of mining operations. The progress of the pandemic in Canada and the “fly-in, fly-out” staffing model also required an appropriately cautious approach to re-staffing and re-starting operations at Lac des Iles, with the mine expected to return to full production in Q1 FY2021.