* S.Africa could lift platinum output 5 pct in 2011
* Zimbabwe picture clouded by political uncertainty
By Ed Stoddard
JOHANNESBURG May 16 South Africa could lift its
platinum output by five percent in 2011 from 4.64 million ounces
in 2010 but the prospect of strikes and a strong rand currency
could curb expansion, metals refiner Johnson Matthey said in a
report on Monday.
"In total, the South African platinum industry has the
potential to increase production by around 5 percent in 2011,
due to recovery at underperforming mines and the reopening of
operations previously closed due to low prices or geological
issues," the refiner said.
"However, strikes and stoppages are factors which have
impeded expansion in recent years and could do so again in
2011," it said.
There are already signals that a tough round of wage talks
looms in the industry and stoppages have already taken a toll on
output so far this year.
South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is
demanding a 14 percent pay rise for its members at Impala
Platinum (IMPJ.J), the world's second-largest producer of the
precious metal. [ID:nLDE7431OE]
And while top producer Anglo American Platinum (AMSJ.J) has
kept its full-year production target of 2.6 million ounces it
had a 5 percent fall in first-quarter output attributed to
safety stoppages. [ID:nLDE73K058]
Johnson Matthey said in the longer term inflation, the
strong rand currency and concerns about a tight power supply
could put the brakes on expansion.
It said it anticipated an increase in supplies of
newly-mined palladium from South Africa in 2011 with a ramp up
of operations at Amplats' Mogalakwena mine. It also said it saw
further gains in palladium output from Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe unlikely to pay for mine stakes- [nLDE7441UE]
Factbox on foreign miners in Zimbabwe- [nLDE73B1HX]
Factbox on major minerals in Zimbabwe- [nLDE7B1M9]
Q+A on Zimbabwe's mine ownership targets- [nLDE73D08S]
On the platinum front there, it said "we expect production
to increase this year" and noted Zimplats Holdings (ZIM.AX), the
Zimbabwean unit of Impala Platinum, was expected to grow its
annual output to 270,000 ounces by 2014.
But it noted that there "is significant uncertainty about
the eventual impact of measures to increase indigenous
investment in the Zimbabwean mining industry."
It was referring to the government's drive to force foreign
miners operating there to surrender 51 percent of their local
equity stakes to black investors in the country.
Zimbabwe has the second largest known platinum reserves in
the world after neighbouring South Africa.
Johnson Matthey's annual Platinum Report, the launch of
which kicks off London's Platinum Week gathering of traders,
analysts, miners and refiners, is widely seen as the most
authoritative commentary on the platinum group metals sector.
(Editing by James Jukwey)