The spread of Covid-19 across Africa has caused a large-scale impact on mining operations. To curtail the spread of the virus, many countries announced national lockdown measures, ranging from a complete shutdown to various restrictions on the movement of people and businesses.
The most significant as far as mining was concerned was in South Africa. The country, which accounts for more than 70% of global platinum production, imposed a 21-day complete nationwide lockdown, including the suspension of all mining operations from 26 March. Others, including Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Lesotho, Liberia, Namibia and Zimbabwe, imposed lockdowns with varying ranges of restrictions. These lockdown measures are expected to impact global production of platinum and diamonds most severely.
The spread of COVID-19 has particularly affected diamond mining. In Angola, major diamond miner, Sociedade Mineira de Catoca, which accounts for 75% of the country production, suspended operations in all its new concessions and laid off a part of the workforce. Lucapa Diamond Company halted operations from 1 April to 24 April, and has since partially resumed operations with 50% of the workforce following a decree from the government. In Botswana, production by the largest diamond producer, De Beers, declined by 7% to 5.6 million carats in Q1 2020 due to issues related to new plant commissioning and maintenance at Orapa mine and lower grades at Jwaneng mine in the Debswana region. With the spread of COVID-19, De Beers has kept the Debswana region mining operations on care and maintenance from 2 April as the country implemented lockdown. Mining operations are expected to restart slowly in a phased manner from 8 May to 20 May. Collectively, production in these major diamond producing countries is forecast decline by 2.6 million carats in 2020.
South Africa’s platinum production experienced a twin blow in 2020. Anglo American Platinum reported an explosion at its Anglo Converter Plant at the Waterval smelter in Rustenberg in February, which meant its guidance for 2020 was reduced by around half a million ounces. The 21-day complete lockdown is expected to reduce production by a further 0.757 million ounces.