© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A sign board is seen near the Sibanye gold mine in Westonaria, west of Johannesburg, April 6, 2016. REUTERS / Siphiwe Sibeko
By Helen Reid
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Disruptions to automotive supply chains in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could impact demand for platinum group metals (PGMs), the CEO of South African miner Sibanye-Stillwater said on Thursday.
CEO Neal Froneman said supply chain disruptions were his biggest concern as carmakers – key consumers of PGMs – warn they are struggling to obtain crucial wire harnesses normally produced in western Ukraine.
“In my mind the supply disruptions and the impact on demand have got more downside than supply reorganization,” Froneman said.
Fears of a palladium shortage due to sanctions on Russia sent prices of the metal to a seven-month high, but Froneman said he sees the price volatility fading as Russian metals find different markets.
“I think their (Russia’s supply will move to friendly countries and the Western world will take up the slack that goes elsewhere,” he said. More of Sibanye’s PGM production may be sold into Europe as countries there switch away from Russian metals, he added.
Sibanye reported a record annual profit as commodity prices surged. Profit rose by 13% in 2021 to 33.1 billion rand ($ 2.16 billion) but inflation was a key concern.
Sibanye’s PGM operations in the United States saw all-in sustaining costs jump by 15% to $ 1,004 per ounce, as a skills shortage in Montana and high employee attrition rates drove the miner to rely more on higher-cost contract labor.
“We have to change our approach to our expansion plans at Stillwater in the US with a view to making our operations work with the labor that we’ve got,” Froneman said in an interview.
He said the company would produce revised plans within a few months.
Asked if that might mean slowing down the expansion, he said: “Absolutely – if there’s a shortage of capacity to fill those positions there’s no point in driving up your cost and extracting the resource in a sub-optimal way.”
In its South Africa operations, costs at Sibanye’s gold operations climbed by 7%, which the company attributed to above-inflation increases in the cost of electricity and some consumables.
Production at Sibanye’s South African PGM operations jumped to 1.9 million ounces, while all-in sustaining costs fell by 5% thanks to synergies from mines being near one another, the company said.
Sibanye said its South African PGM mines would produce between 1.75 million and 1.85 million ounces in 2022, while its South African gold mines would produce between 813,000 and 873,000 ounces.
After a ballot report showed National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and UASA union members backed a strike at Sibanye’s South African gold operations, Froneman said the company would continue to engage to try and avoid a strike, but would not revise its wage offer. [nL8N2V61UX]
The Solidarity union split from a coalition of unions on Wednesday by saying it had accepted Sibanye’s final wage offer of a 5% annual pay increase.
($ 1 = 15.3245 rand)
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