South African gold production surges the most in four years

Moab Khotsong gold mine, South Africa. (Image: AngloGold Ashanti)

South African gold output surged the most in four years in December, providing an unexpected boost for the country’s mining production.

Gold output rose by 24.9% from a year earlier, compared with a revised 4.5% in November, Pretoria-based Statistics South Africa said Thursday in a statement on its website. That was the biggest increase since January 2016 and helped total mining production to grow by 1.8%, the first expansion in five months. The median estimate of five economists in a Bloomberg survey was for total output to contract by 3.5%.

Key insights

  • The gold price that’s near a seven-year high prompted companies to boost production, even amid the deepest power cuts yet in December. The surge in the year-on-year number also reflects a slump in output in November and December 2018 due to a strike by members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.
  • South Africa was overtaken by Ghana as the continent’s largest gold producer last year as the country’s deeper mines, making it more difficult and expensive to extract the metal.
  • Rolling blackouts affected operations at many platinum mines causing output of platinum-group metals to contract by 3.9% from a year earlier.
  • Total mining production for the year was 1.3% lower than in 2018.

(By Prinesha Naidoo and Felix Njini)

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