Royal Bafokeng Platinum CEO Steve Phiri - Photo by Creamer Media

JOHANNESBURG – Platinum group metals (PGMs) mining company Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat) will on Monday, April 20, begin phasing up to 50% of operational capacity while taking all practicable measures to reduce the risk, exposure and spread of the Covid-19 pandemic to secure the wellbeing of its employees.

To mitigate the impact on the livelihood of employees and their families during this difficult time, RBPlat paid employees their salaries for the initial 21-day lockdown period, including medical aid and pension contributions and, where applicable, homeowners allowances and living-out allowances. During this lockdown, the executive committee and senior management voluntarily waived 33% of their salary.

In a stock exchange news service (SENS) announcement, RBPlat, headed by CEO Steve Phiri, reiterated its full support for the decision of President Cyril Ramaphosa to enforce a nationwide lockdown in an attempt to disrupt fundamentally the chain of Covid-19 transmission.

“As an industry, we’ve had regular engagement with government through the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy to ensure the wellbeing of our communities as well as discussing mitigating strategies to limit the economic ramifications of the pandemic,” the company stated in the SENS notice, which laid down these elaborate safety measures and protocols.

Mining Weekly can report that to keep the coronavirus pandemic at bay during resumed operations:

  • a task team will meet daily to monitor, manage and control operational requirements;
  • a dynamic Covid-19 action plan will be formulated;
  • strict physical distancing rules and practices will be enforced;
  • extensive training, awareness and communication programmes, with digital platforms, posters and contact by mobile short messaging system, will be carried out;
  • body temperature screening will take place at all strategic access points to operations;
  • hand sanitising will be enforced at dedicated points to and from key access areas;
  • all turnstiles across the operations will be disinfected;
  • all biometric access will be suspended;
  • all access control will be by clock card;
  • all employees will be updated regularly on new developments;
  • a fully staffed and operational clinic will function 24 hours a day, seven days a week;
  • the importance of good hygiene will be continually reinforced;
  • a detailed issue-based assessment of Covid-19 risk during ramp-up will be provided;
  • flu immunisation and vitamin supplementation for vulnerable employees will be provided;
  • a six-month supply of prepacked chronic medication will be given to vulnerable employees on the platinum health medical aid scheme;
  • disinfection of all lift cages, chairlifts, change houses, lamp rooms, hand rails and travelling ways to and from these areas, will be ongoing;
  • ultraviolet lights will be installed in all boardrooms and main meeting rooms;
  • sanitisation tunnels at mine access points will be evaluated;
  • employee quarantine facilities will be identified;
  • rules of physical distancing during transportation will be enforced;
  • buses will be regularly disinfected; and
  • all employees will be required to wear facemasks during bus transportation.

RBPlat stated that at this stage, it was impossible to give an accurate estimate of the financial impact that the pandemic would have on the group, as the situation remained fast changing.

The company expressed the belief, however, that the Covid-19 pandemic would be a part of its operating environment for some time to come.

“We’ll continue to focus on the wellbeing of our employees and the communities in which we operate while also ensuring the sustainability of our business,” the company stated.

RBPlat mines PGMs in the Merensky and upper group two reefs on the Boschkoppie, Styldrift and Frischgewaagd farms in the Rustenburg area that have been identified as hosting the last undeveloped Merensky reef on the western limb of the Bushveld Complex. RBPlat’s assets are the only known significant shallow high-grade Merensky resources and reserves still available for mining in South Africa.

RBPlat more than doubled its headline earnings a share for the year ended December 31 to 50.4c. Its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation increased by 248.4% year-on-year to R1.76-billion, while its net debt decreased by 41% to R491.3-million.

Operationally, the year represented a continued transformation as the new Styldrift mechanised mine moved from a project environment to commercial operating status, and the Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine maintained steady results, despite a rapidly depleting South shaft Merensky reserve.

Platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold (4E) metals-in-concentrate production increased by 9% year-on-year to 401 000 oz, while platinum metal-in-concentrate output increased by 9.2% year-on-year to 261 000 oz.

Following the declaration of the national 21-day lockdown from March 26 to April 16, RBPlat placed its operations on care and maintenance, which is likely to lower the guidance provided by the company of a production increase of between 4.2-million tonnes and 4.5-million tonnes at a 4E built-up head grade of 3.9 g/t to 4 g/t, yielding 450 000 oz to 485 000 oz of 4E metals-in-concentrate. –