Despite ongoing labour unrest, mining production in South Africa is picking up, as the figures for January, released Thursday by Statistics South Africa, showed a 7.3% increase compared to the same period last year.
The news surprised analysts, who had predicted a decline of 4.2%, in light of a few wild strikes and the fact that the country’s mining output fell 8.9% last December.
Driving the production boost figured iron ore and diamonds. The steel-making commodity was up 33.4% in January, contributing 4.8 points of the percentage change. Diamond output jumped 55% compared to Jan. 2012, which represents a one percentage point to the total mining surge. I
On the down side, gold dragged the number down by 1.3%, with the “other metallic minerals” category —the only other negative contributor— at 0.7%.
Bullion was also the biggest strain on December mineral sales, followed by platinum group metals and coal.
However, that didn’t derail the overall mining increase, as mineral sales rose 10% in December from November, after climbing 2.5% in November and falling 4.2% in October.
South Africa’s mining production data has been closely watched for indications of whether the sector was recovering from last year’s extensive and, at times, violent illegal strikes.