Platinum producers sign far-reaching wage pacts

IB Times reports South Africa’s biggest mine union said on Friday it had sealed a 2-year wage deal with Lonmin, averting a possible strike against the world’s third largest platinum producer.

World number one and two Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum clinched similar deals earlier this year, significantly removing threats of labour unrest to 75% of the global production. The price of platinum has crashed from $1,915/oz in August to $1,472/oz within a couple of weeks and has since recovered to around the $1,550-level. PGMs have been under pressure this year due to sagging demand from the automobile sector which is slashing use of the precious metals to cut costs.

Palladium has performed even worse than platinum this year, but last week leapt 13% after Russia’s Norilsk Nickel, the top palladium producer, said it anticipated a deficit in palladium next year on reduced supply from Russia.

MINING.com reported in October on Barclays Capital research that notes at levels of about $1,530 an ounce, platinum is trading close to or below the price at which some miners break even and that high-cost producers are already losing money.

FT argued last month that cuts in production to stop prices falling further is unlikely as South Africa’s platinum mines are difficult and expensive to shut down, while the price of labour suspensions and political pressure are also huge disincentives of production cuts.

The British Geological Survey in September published the latest list of the 52 elements, minerals and metals most at risk of supply disruption because global production is concentrated in a few countries, many with unstable governments. The BGS list was topped by antimony and platinum group metals, used in autocatalysts for emission controls, and other industrial and medical applications, came in second. More than 75% of PGM deposits are in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

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