Amplats shuts PGM facilities a second time after detecting fresh leak in converter plant

ANGLO American Platinum (Amplats) has shut its Anglo Converter Plant (ACP) in Rustenburg only a week after repairing a leak at one of the facility’s units, known as Phase B.

The Anglo American subsidiary said in a statement today it had detected a new leak, this time in its high-pressure cooling system of Phase B. The unit had been under repair since early March at a cost of R150m.

Employees were evacuated without mishap whilst the unit was brought down safely, according to the statement. Amplats didn’t provide details as to the length of the downtime but said an update would be provided early next week.

The entire ACP was out of action from the beginning of March until around mid-May when Phase B unit was repaired, a couple of weeks ahead of schedule.

The Phase A unit is not expected to be recommissioned until the first quarter of next year following an explosion in February. Amplats said the new technical problem at Phase B had not affected repairs to date, nor the repair work underway at Phase A.

Nonetheless, the ongoing technical problems come at a horrible time for South Africa’s PGM sector which has been laid low by lockdowns associated with COVID-19.

“Whilst a detailed technical investigation into the cause of this leak and potential repairs is under way, the company has taken the decision to temporarily close the ACP Phase B unit to ensure an ongoing safe operating environment, protect employees and protect the integrity of the plant,” said Amplats in its statement.

Amplats said on May 5 that temporary commercial arrangements with third party suppliers to ACP – PGM producers that truck concentrate to Amplats’ facilities to be refined for a fee – would be lifted imminently.

Jana Marais, spokesperson for Amplats, said all force majeure notices had been lifted, including to customers. She added, however, that: “It would be premature to comment on the possibility of future force majeure notices until the technical investigation has been completed”.

Amplats said in April that refined metal-in-concentrate (M&C) production for 2020 would be 3.1 to 3.6 million in PGM 5E + gold production – a hefty one quarter reduction on previous guidance of 4.2 to 4.6 million oz. Refined production would come in at between 3.1 to 3.6 million oz compared to previous guidance of 3.3 to 3.8 million oz.

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