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This report focuses on platinum mining which is one of the largest sub-sectors of the South African mining industry and is a significant contributor to the South African economy. 96.9 tonnes of refined platinum was produced and 115 tonnes worth US$4.7bn was exported during 2014. South Africa is the world’s largest producer, currently extracting 78% of the world’s platinum, and holds reserves of 63,000 tonnes, which is more than 95% of the world’s total. Despite these statistics, analysts describe the local industry as one in crisis.
The platinum sector has been hit by the combined impact of slowing global demand, falling prices, rapidly escalating domestic production costs, electricity shortages and strike action. The five-month strike during 2014 was the longest and most expensive strike in South African history and resulted in employers losing revenue of approximately R24bn and employees losing earnings of up to R10.6bn. The three largest platinum producers Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin are focusing on cost-cutting strategies that include the closure of unprofitable mines, reducing the size of the workforce and increasing mechanisation. Hope is being pinned on new technologies such as the Kell process, which speeds up the processing of platinum ore using only 10% of the electricity normally consumed, and the use of platinum in new fuel cell technology.
The report on the Platinum sector describes the current market, outlines developments within the sector and focuses on factors influencing the success of the local industry. The report also profiles 18 South African-based companies, including the three major players as well as junior miners such as Wesizwe and Lesego Platinum Mining (Pty) Ltd, which is still involved in exploration and currently has no permanent employees.