CAPE TOWN Feb 4 An electricity supply crisis that has forced South African mines to cut production has the potential to push the price of platinum well above $2,000 an ounce, a mining analyst said on Monday.
South African mines, which produce four-fifths of the world's platinum, have reported slow progress in ramping up output after state power firm Eskom allowed them only limited increases in their electricity consumption.
The country has suffered weeks of rolling blackouts.
"This (power crisis) can place very high pressure on platinum, well above $2,000 an ounce," Stephen Forrest, director of SFA Oxford, said in a presentation to the Indaba African mining conference in Cape Town.
Platinum roared to a record high on Monday due to the South African power concerns, touching a high of $1,789 an ounce before falling to $1,782/1,787 at 1424 GMT, against $1,752/1,759 late in New York on Friday.
Palladium rose to a six-year high of $420.50 an ounce and was last quoted at $418/422, against $410/413 in New York, tracking gains in platinum prices.
The two metals are used in jewellery and in vehicle catalysts, where they help clean exhaust gases.
Forrest also said labour problems in South Africa, which has a powerful trade union movement, could help bolster platinum prices. South African miners have staged job stoppages in the past year to press demands for higher wages and benefits.
He forecast, however, that platinum would likely come down to an average of $1,350 over the long term, due in part to rising fuel costs, which threaten to hit the auto industry.
Worldwide supply of platinum will peak in 2013 and then decline, Forrest said, adding that mining projects in Zimbabwe could add to platinum supply if they were given the green light to proceed.
Zimbabwe's mining sector was once one of the most attractive in southern Africa, but a deep economic crisis and meddling by the government in the sector has eroded investor confidence and prompted investors to look elsewhere for mining projects.
(Editing by Michael Roddy)