Africa’s top gold refiner restarts smelter

Credit: Rand Refinery

South Africa’s Rand Refinery Ltd. is restarting its gold smelting plant as the country gradually relaxes a national lockdown, further easing physical supply disruptions caused by the pandemic.

Rand Refinery, Africa’s only refiner accredited with the London Bullion Market Association, will restart the plant this week after a month-long shutdown, Chief Executive Officer Praveen Baijnath said. While the company was exempt from the lockdown that started on March 27, it closed the smelter and cut the refinery’s capacity to about 60% to reduce the number of workers there.

“Following an induction process for returning employees, the smelter for the arc furnace will be restarted this week and then ramped up,” Baijnath said by email.

The resumption of operations at the Johannesburg smelter comes as Swiss refineries are ramping up production, potentially easing supply concerns that caused gold prices in key markets to diverge dramatically. Valcambi SA plans to reach 85% of normal output this week, with Argor-Heraeus SA targeting about 90%. Refiner MKS PAMP Group is also increasing production.

Rand Refinery has turned to chartered flights to transport unprocessed metals from African mines and ship bars to London after commercial airlines — frequently used to transport gold — were grounded. The new system is working efficiently, Baijnath said.

“We have established a good routine and have been able to ensure that product from our mining clients is shipped to us and that refined product makes its way to bullion banks and end user customers,” the CEO said.

South Africa has also allowed mines to resume operations with about 50% of their staff. Rand Refinery refines bullion for companies such as AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. and Harmony Gold Mining Co., as well as some producers from Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, which it sells on their behalf on the London market.

(By Felix Njini)


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