Sibanye ‘will have to’ shutter US mine unless palladium recovers

Stillwater operation in Montana. (Image courtesy of Sibanye-Stillwater).

Sibanye Stillwater Ltd. will be forced to halt operations at its Montana palladium mine if prices don’t recover soon, according to chief executive Office Neal Froneman.

“The future of Stillwater remains in the balance,” the CEO said on Tuesday, when asked at a London conference about the outlook for the mine. “I mean it’s as simple as that. If there’s no correction in the price soon, as strategic as it is, we will have to put it on care and maintenance.”

Sibanye took a $2.1 billion writedown on its unprofitable US assets earlier this year, citing a combination of plunging prices, rising costs and constraints on implementing an expansion project. The company, which acquired the Montana operations when it bought Stillwater Mining Co. for $2.2 billion in 2017, also axed some jobs at the mine last year as part of its cost-cutting efforts.

Froneman said in March that the Montana operation remains a “strategic asset” and that it was “not due for closure at this stage.” He said at the time that the company had no option but to ensure that the mine becomes profitable, even with depressed palladium prices.

Palladium, which is almost entirely used in catalytic converters that curb auto emissions, has come under increasing pressure as future demand is called into question by the shift to electric vehicles. Palladium has slumped about 70% from a peak in March 2022.

The metal has also been substituted out of catalytic converters in favor of platinum, which until recently was trading at a lower price. Palladium is mostly used in gasoline vehicles, while sister metal platinum — more focused around diesel demand — also has uses in hydrogen fuel cells.

Sibanye’s US operations primarily produce palladium, while its South African mines are typically richer in platinum.

(By William Clowes)


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *