Sub-Sahara Mining & Industrial Journal
Mining

Amplats ramps up stricken smelter, force majeure to be lifted

The repair of the stricken Anglo Converter Plant (ACP) Phase B unit has been safely and successfully completed ahead of schedule, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) said on Monday.

Amplats’ chain of processing facilities, as well as the ACP Phase B unit that was meant to replace it, was temporarily closed on March 6 following an explosion.

An 80-day completion date to May 25 was predicted but the ACP and full downstream processing operations are now completing a safe ramp-up for full expected operational from May 12, the date on which the force majeure to suppliers of concentrate would be lifted.

The JSE-listed platinum group metals (PGM) mining and marketing company said the repair had enabled the restart of refined production of PGMs and base metals.

“We were vigilant in adhering to strict health and safety protocols to keep the repair team safe during the lockdown, whilst ensuring that we were able to implement social distancing and hygiene requirements which form our new way of working during the Covid-19 pandemic,” Amplats CEO Natascha Viljoen stated in a media release to Mining Weekly.

Viljoen said substantial testing had been carried out to ensure the stability of the ACP Phase B unit.

The estimated final cost of repairs for ACP Phase B was R150-million, in line with the lower end of guidance provided.

“As we complete the ramp-up, we’re engaging with suppliers of concentrate to lift force majeure imminently. All temporary commercial arrangements applicable during the force majeure period will revert to normal commercial terms,” Viljoen added.

Repair work on the ACP Phase A unit was continuing and progressing in accordance with the project plan. All orders for long lead items had been placed and dismantling work had begun on site.

Owing to the time taken to refine the respective PGMs and base metals, the force majeure notice remained in effect for the company’s refined metal customers. Force majeure arrangements with those customers will be lifted in the future and in line with the provisions of our agreements.

Given the collective uncertainty around the startup of ACP, the ramp-up of mining operations and the potential impact of Covid-19, Amplats stated that it was retaining its current guidance and would provide an update as appropriate when it had further information and clarity on production.

SAFE, SUCCESSFUL REPAIR UNDER LOCKDOWN

In accordance with lockdown regulations, the repair team was able to continue with repairs throughout South Africa’s extended national lockdown.

All materials required for repairs were ordered and available on site ahead of the lockdown, and there were no supply chain disruptions that impacted the ability to complete the repairs.

Site safety protocol implementation was aligned with government approvals and regulations. A construction work risk review was completed to determine work phasing, method of execution, key resource identification and increased health protocols.

The ACP construction repair team was split into two teams that self-isolated for the duration of the repair work, and Covid-19 specific health protocols were put in place for cleaning, screening and transport to site.

A new shift pattern introduced fostered physical distancing. Increased site hygiene measures for sanitisation, together with site safety and health supervision, were implemented to ensure safety and quality of construction.

Zero injuries, and zero health issues or positive Covid-19 cases had been reported at the time of going to press and no health and safety or construction issues had been experienced during the repair and ramp-up.

The company’s ability to continue these essential repairs during lockdown had been critical to the resumption of the processing pipeline.

As a result of the incidents at the ACP, and the need to shut operations to secure a safe operational environment for employees, Amplats was unable to process any metal to final product during this period.

With mining activity resuming to varying degrees under the current Level 4 lockdown restrictions, the company was now able to begin processing concentrate and releasing metal from the pipeline.

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