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Updated 22:24 18/10/18

Platinum mines their "own worst enemies", says top firm

Liam Sheasby

By Liam Sheasby, News Editor

08 Oct 2018

A major business conference was held in South Africa last week to discuss the new Mining Charter implemented by the country’s Mineral Resources minister, Gwede Mantashe, the week before.

Major mining firms met with government ministers and journalists at the Joburg Indaba conference to discuss the state of mining in South Africa – in particularly focussing on the negative impact of platinum prices dropping sharply.

Chris Griffith, the CEO of Anglo American Platinum, admitted to the attendees: “We were slow to recognize structural changes when platinum demand started falling and was being substituted.

“That was a mistake; we failed to stop supply from loss-making mines, then we became our own worst enemies in the face of declining demand.”

Platinum is currently £624.31 per ounce. This is up £17.32 per ounce on the month’s low point but down over 10% (£74.93) per ounce from the peak of £732.64 in the past year. The drop in demand for diesel cars has been a big industry change in terms of the demand for platinum in catalytic converters for vehicles, but as new converters are announced ensuring cleaner emissions, the trust in car manufacturers such as Volkswagen is slowly returning, suggesting that demand may not be too far behind.

There was broad support for the South African government’s new charter, which is seen as many as an overdue change of approach to make one of the world’s largest mining nations more competitive and modern. The chairman of the Blackrock World Mining Trust, Ian Cockerill, called the country’s mining industry a ‘dinosaur’, slating it for a lack of progress in terms of innovation and technology being used.

Deshnee Naidoo, the CEO of Vedanta Resources’ subsidiary Zinc International and CMT Mines Australia, also spoke about the lack of automation and new tech from her time working in the country with Anglo American Platinum, saying that the “fear of losing jobs continues to take this important topic off the table”.

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Below you can watch news footage from CNBC Africa, with journalist Karabo Letlhatlha speaking to Roger Baxter, the CEO of Minerals Council South Africa:

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