The rand weakened two percent against the dollar and platinum reached a five-month high on Wednesday as unrest in South Africa’s platinum sector spread to Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), which suspended operations at its Thembelani mine in Rustenburg.
The world’s largest platinum producer is the latest miner to halt production in the North West in the past six months. Aquarius Platinum and Lonmin have also come to a standstill.
Amplats said it was taking precautionary measures to protect its workers from intimidation by "outside" parties. It said its workers were being intimidated "by the threat of violence" after stick-wielding men blocked roads leading to mine shafts.
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"Our employees are not on strike. However‚ in light of the current volatile situation in the Rustenburg area, Anglo American Platinum has decided to suspend its operations in the Rustenburg area," Amplats CEO Chris Griffith said on Wednesday.
Chairwoman Cynthia Carroll said the company was "in touch with the authorities at the highest level to identify how we can work together with our tripartite partners — government and the recognised labour unions — to achieve a swift and peaceful resolution to these illegal actions".
Amplats produces 40 percent of the world’s annual platinum output. In July, the company lowered its production forecast for this year, due to dwindling demand, to between 2.4-million ounces and 2.5-million ounces of platinum, from an earlier target of between 2.5-million ounces and 2.6-million ounces.
The announcement on Wednesday sparked a spike in the platinum price, on speculation that the current surplus will fall in the event that the suspensions continue.
Article continues on page two: platinum will reach $2000/oz within the next nine months...