Zimplats says its operations remain largely uninterrupted despite the COVID-19 enforced lockdowns in Zimbabwe and South Africa, where the company’s refiner, Impala, has issued a force majeure declaration.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa ordered a 21-day national lockdown in Zimbabwe from March 30 as the country battles to stave off the COVID-19 pandemic. The country has 8 confirmed coronavirus infections and one death, as of April 2, according to the government.
South Africa’s government is also enforcing a nationwide lockdown, which has prompted the world’s largest platinum producers Anglo American Platinum, Sibanye-Stillwater and Impala Platinum to close operations and declare force majeure on contracts.
The declaration of force majeure releases business entities from certain contractual obligations due to events beyond their control.
Zimbabwe, which draws about a third of its foreign currency income from mineral earnings, is trying to keep its mines running despite the disruption of supply routes and lockdowns in key markets. The country is bracing for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its fragile economy, with the Chamber of Mines warning of a US$400 million revenue loss in the second quarter.
“Zimplats applied for permission to continue operating under agreed precautionary measures. Permission was granted and allows for mining and processing operations to continue relatively uninterrupted during the lockdown period,” the company said in a filing on the Australian Stock Exchange on Thursday.
Zimplats will continue to mine and process ore despite the Impala force majeure notification and will supply Impala, once the force majeure has been lifted, the company said.
Zimplats has itself issued force majeure letters to contractors working on its capital projects, as well as other financial institutions, to legally suspend contractual obligations under existing contracts until the end of the current lockdown period.
The company said it has put measures in place to protect the health of its workers during the lockdown. The company’s clinics and medical facilities have been prepared to deal with COVID-19 cases and will remain open and fully operational during the lockdown period.
Zimplats is currently undertaking major capital projects, including the US$264 million Mupani mine and the redevelopment of the Bimha mine, for US$101 million.