THE platinum group metals (PGM) industry was facing the “stark reality” South African production would be lower this year than before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, said Paul Wilson, CEO of the World Platinum Investment Council (WPIC).
“With the backlog of semi-finished inventory built up during the 2020 Anglo American Platinum converter plant (ACP) outages now processed, we are left with the stark reality that South African production is actually below where it was in 2019,” he said.
Processing outages in 2019 and 2020 at the facilities of Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) resulted in a build-up of inventory totalling about a million ounces. Most of these ounces had been cleared by the end of 2021, according to Amplats.
Wilson was commenting in the WPIC first quarter report on supply and demand in the sector as well as the outlook for the remainder of 2022.
He added that combined with a massive drop in recycled material it was likely that supply would be constrained supply for the coming months while demand continues to grow. The WPIC forecast a reduction in its previously forecast surplus to 627,000 ounces. This compares to a platinum surplus in 2021 of 1,13 million oz.
South African first quarter production fell 16% year-on-year to 861,000 oz. Mined supply is expected to decline 9% to 4.26 million oz this year before factoring in strikes related to three-yearly wage negotiations.
Wilson said the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – which has been followed by increasingly tightening waves of sanctions from the Western world – would be considerable but was currently unknown on the platinum sector.
“Security-of-supply concerns, particularly for palladium have arisen in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and given Russia’s importance to the global supplies of mined palladium and, to a much lesser extent, platinum,” said Wilson. “This could increase platinum for palladium substitution efforts and modify the procurement and inventory management strategies of a wide range of market participants.”
First quarter Russian platinum output fell 11% year-on-year with the operating environment in Russia becoming increasingly challenging due to the geopolitical situation and sanctions, said the WPIC.
Overall, global refined mine production is forecast to decline 7% year-on-year to 5,87 million oz, the council said.