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Impala Commissions New Shaft at World’s Biggest Platinum Complex

Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd., the second-biggest producer of the metal, today commissioned a new shaft at its Rustenburg mine in South Africa that will be the company’s largest.

Stoping, or the extraction of ore, at the no. 16 complex of the Rustenburg mine, the world’s biggest for platinum, is expected to start in the September quarter, the company said in a statement handed to reporters today at the operation, about 120 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg. It will produce 185,000 ounces of platinum annually at full output, which Impala expects to start in the 2018 financial year, said.

No. 16, which will be mined for 25 years, is one of three lower-cost shafts Impala is sinking to replace older mines that have declining resources, with 5.1 billion rand ($500 million) of the 6.9 billion in capital spending budgeted for the complex used to date. The company is opening the mine as producers in South Africa struggle with higher costs and lower prices, prompting operators including Anglo American Platinum Ltd., the world’s largest miner of the metal, to consider cutting back operations and fire workers.

“It’s not to increase production, it’s to sustain production,” said Gerhard Potgieter, Impala’s group executive of growth projects. “When you look at the life cycle of a shaft this size, and the capital investment, you can’t look at swings in the short-term metal price.”

The operation will secure jobs for 6,500 people that are currently employed at the older-generation Rustenburg shafts. Chief Executive Officer Terence Goodlace said in the statement.

The No. 20 shaft has started output and is expected to reach full production of 125,000 ounces a year in fiscal 2018. First ore from No. 17 shaft is expected in the 2017 financial year, with the operation expected to produce about 180,000 ounces annually.

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