Monday 11 May 2015

Precious Metals '15 gets underway

I opened Precious Metals '15 this morning and welcomed our 29 delegates from 12 countries.

This is the smallest of the five Precious Metals conferences in the series, which is not surprising considering the hammering that gold and PGMs have taken over the past year. Only last week London-listed platinum producer Lonmin, after emerging from the longest and costliest strike in South African history, announced plans to cut about 3,500 jobs across the country. Platinum prices have plunged about 20% since the start of last year and have failed to recover any meaningful ground since then, causing significant distress in the sector.

Lonmin’s decision comes in the wake of a similar move by Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the South African subsidiary of Anglo American, which last week said it would cut 474 jobs as part of a restructuring programme that began in 2013.

Gold mining has similarly suffered due to large increases in production costs due to ore grades becoming ever leaner, and mining ever deeper, particularly in South Africa, now only the 6th largest producer (posting of 25 September 2013).

So it was appropriate that the conference got off to a fine start with the keynote lecture, given by Jacques Eksteen of Curtin University, Australia, who reviewed recent innovations in the processing of difficult and low grade gold. Ironically Jacques was for four years, until early 2012, Group Consulting Metallurgist with Lonmin Platinum in South Africa.

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