KENMARE Resources said availability of staff, including senior managers, at its Mozambique mineral sands mine, Moma, was being limited by an increase in positive Covid-19 cases – most of which were asymptomatic.
The Dublin-listed miner said in an operational update today that positive Covid-19 tests had risen lately with some 177 employees currently in isolation.
“The larger number of cases is limiting availability of the workforce, including senior management, at the site,” the company said. “However, the business is being managed to mitigate the impact and production has continued at normal levels.”
Details would be provided when Kenmare provided its year-end results presentation which has been scheduled for March 24. It noted a national increase in cases of the disease in its fourth quarter report. Reported cases of Covid-19 stood at just under 1,000 a day in mid-February but have since declined to a seven-day rolling average of about 470.
The company said that in addition to physical distancing and hygiene protocols, it had started blanket testing of the workforce on the site every two weeks. It had also targeted a reduction of this interval in order to “… help to identify and isolate positive cases more quickly and limit the spread of the virus”.
The larger number of cases is limiting availability of the workforce, including senior management, at the site. However, the business is being managed to mitigate the impact and production has continued at normal levels.
Kenmare said in January that shareholders could expect improved dividend payments in its 2021 financial year in which production of its key product, ilmenite, would increase between 45% and 60%.
In addition to higher production, the improvement in the global ilmenite market last year looked likely to continue into 2021.
China, a driver of ilmenite consumption, continued to show robust economic growth whilst supply constraints remained in place. Ilmenite is used in the manufacture of paint pigments and in the ceramics industry.
Kenmare reported total heavy mineral concentrate for its 2020 financial year of about 1.2 million tons which was roughly in line with 2019. Ilmenite production was 15% lower at some 756,000 tons, partly due to lower recoveries and stock adjustments.
In addition to ilmenite, Kenmare also produces zircon and rutile. Total mineral shipments in 2020 were 17% lower year-on-year at some 853,100 tons owing to poor sea conditions and transshipment capacity upgrades that were undertaken.
For 2021, Kenmare has targeted ilmenite production of between 1.1 million to 1.2 million tons. “We achieved or exceeded the mid-point of our August 2020 guidance ranges for all finished products and we are targeting an uplift of ilmenite production in 2021 of between approximately 45% and 60%,” said Michael Carvill, Kenmare MD said.
“In addition to higher revenues, increased production will deliver lower unit costs, significantly increasing cash flows and bringing us closer to our target of becoming a first quartile producer on the industry revenue to cost curve,” he said.