It's no secret the platinum mining industry has been suffering of late. With mineworker strikes in South Africa having caused significant losses of production.
And now there's another problem. In the world's third-largest platinum producing nation: Zimbabwe.
The news comes from Zimplats, a subsidiary of global number two platinum miner Impala. With the company reporting a major underground collapse at its Bimha mine, in the country's south-central region.
Few technical details were given. Beyond that fact that the rockfall is related to a fault within the below-surface operations here.
But the event will apparently have a major effect on supply from Bimha. With Zimplats now forecasting that annual production here will be reduced by 50%--equating to a loss of 45,000 ounces of platinum.
That's a significant number. Bimha is Zimbabwe's largest platinum mine, and the output cut here adds up to just under 12% of the country's total supply of the metal. Or about 1% of global output.
And it doesn't look like the lost production will be coming back soon. The deterioration of the mine came on very quickly--with ground instability reportedly starting only in May, leading up to the collapse last week. Suggesting that the structural problems here are of a significant scale.
Zimplats noted that it will now "abandon and permanently close approximately half of the mining footprint in areas where major falls of ground have occurred". Indicating that an operational solution here will take some time to materialize.
In the meantime, the world is without one more source of platinum. At a time when significant doubts are lingering over the ongoing viability of South African operations.
This will only accelerate the push for diversification in this geographically-concentrated metal. Look for the world's producers to ramp things up a notch in seeking new ideas in development and exploration.
At the same time, the upward pressure on platinum prices should continue.
Here's to another one biting the dust,
By Dave Forest