June 18, 2020 / 7:52 AM / 23 days ago

UPDATE 1-S.Africa's Amplats targets mines at 75-80% capacity by end-year

(Adds details of COVID-19 screening, risk levels)

JOHANNESBURG, June 18 (Reuters) - Anglo American Platinum expects to bring its mining production back up to 75% to 80% of capacity by the end of this year as South African mines recover from a forced COVID-19 shutdown, CEO Natascha Viljoen said on Thursday.

“Our ramp-up is targeted to get to 75 or 80 percent towards the end of the year,” she told reporters. Production lost during South Africa’s early lockdown, when most mines in the country shut down, would probably not be recovered, she said.

Viljoen, who was appointed as CEO in April, estimated the platinum miner had spent 25 million rand ($1.45 million) on sanitation and personal protective equipment at its mines so far.

With COVID-19 screening procedures in place at the mines, Viljoen said she estimates they will have an infection rate of between 7% and 10%.

Mining companies in South Africa are anxious about managing COVID-19 and preventing outbreaks at mine sites where workers are in close quarters and confined spaces.

AngloGold Ashanti’s Mponeng gold mine - the deepest in the world - shut down for just over a week earlier this month after 196 workers tested positive for COVID-19.

Under Amplats’ risk assessments they would likely close a mine if 20% of workers test positive, Viljoen said, although if the workers are concentrated in a particular area of the mine they might close just one part of the mine.

According to mining industry body the Minerals Council, 12,131 COVID-19 tests have been conducted across South Africa’s mines, 1,133 of which came out positive.

Despite supply chain disruptions, Viljoen said Amplats has been able to export all its platinum, though it has had to use different routes.

Amplats has spent around 1 billion Rand on the salaries of employees not at work, she said.

$1 = 17.1923 rand Reporting by Helen Reid; Editing by Mark Potter and Toby Chopra

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