Impala Platinum (Implats) has recorded a 17% increase in gross refined platinum production for the period 1 January to 31 March 2016, despite three fatal incidents.

Implats produced 353 000 oz of platinum during the quarter, compared to 301 000 oz of platinum ounces in the prior comparable period.

The increase is largely as a result of increased output from its Zimbabwe-based Zimplats mine, which produced 89 000 oz of platinum during the quarter, compared with 52 000 oz for the comparable period last year.

The increase was also owing to good operational performances from its Marula, Two Rivers and Mimosa mines in South Africa and higher volumes from Impala Refining Services (IRS), which increased Impala platinum production for the quarter by 32.9%, as well as the release of material stockpiled ahead of the smelter. [quote]

While encouraged by Implats progress in meeting its strategic objectives aimed at building a stronger and more robust business, Implats CEO Terence Goodlace noted the three safety stoppages that completely overshadowed the company’s quarterly performance.

During the quarter, Implats experienced three fatal incidents, two of which occurred at Impala Rustenburg and one at Mimosa, resulting in a total of six fatalities.

In one of these incidents, four employees lost their lives in an underground fire at Impala Rustenburg’s 14 Shaft on 22 January 2016, the cause of which is still being investigated. The entire Rustenburg operation was subsequently closed to engage employees on their safety readiness and emergency awareness, and to significantly refocus efforts to achieving zero-harm.

Following the fire in January 2016 and consequential safety stoppages, Implats recorded no further serious safety-related incidents.

Implats’ full year production guidance is estimated to be around 1.42 Moz of refined platinum at a unit cost of R22 500/oz.