South African mining output collapses by nearly 50% in April

The implementation of a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 in South Africa caused total mining production to fold by 47.3% in April, compared to the same month in 2019.

Official data released yesterday by Statistics South Africa revealed that mining output also contracted by 18% in March, after rising in the first two months of the year.

South Africa, the world’s biggest producer of platinum and chrome and a leading producer of gold and diamonds, entered a strict lockdown in late March, forcing mines around the country to shutdown temporarily.

Open pit mines have been allowed to work at full capacity since May 1, although deep underground mines – where social distancing is more difficult – were limited to operating at 50% until June 1, when the government relaxed restrictions and allowed full capacity to resume.

Platinum group metal production fell 62% in April, gold output was 59.6% lower and South Africa’s iron ore fell 68.7% during the month.

Industry body Minerals Council South Africa has estimated that mining production could fall by 8-10% this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Council also confirmed 821 cases of the virus in the sector, amid trade union concerns around safety as employees return to work.