South32 suspends potline at Mozal aluminium smelter after two employees killed

Aluminium smelter

SOUTH32 has suspended a potline at its Mozal aluminium smelter in Mozambique following an accident in which two employees died and a contractor was injured.

The accident, unusual in aluminium smelting, occurred on November 7. The contractor is being treated for his injuries, the company said without providing additional detail on the nature of the accident.

“Reduction operations in Potroom A at Mozal have been suspended and an investigation into the incident in underway,” the group said today. “Learnings will be shared across South32 to understand how we can prevent a similar incident occurring again in the future,” it added.

In addition to the tragic loss of life, an interruption to aluminium production is unwelcome for South32 which said in October that first quarter aluminium sales had fallen 18% quarter-on-quarter to 162,000 tons owing to logistical logjams in South Africa.

Aluminium produced at Mozal, as well as at Hillside smelter in South Africa, is exported through Richards Bay port which is managed by the state-owned company Transnet. Transnet has struggling to meet capacity owing to Covid-19 absenteeism, a lack of parts and equipment, and persistent theft and sabotage perpetrated by criminal gangs.

“We continue to closely monitor the situation and will seek to mitigate the potential impact on our aluminium sales during the December 2022 quarter,” South32 said in October.

Aluminium guidance for Mozal was unchanged from 370,000 tons for the 2023 financial year. This compares to attributable production of 278,000 tons in the 2022 financial year ended June. The expected increase in production is owing to the installation of new AP3XLE technology at Mozal and an increase in South32’s ownership to 63.7% following the acquisition of an additional 16.6% stake in May.