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Sibanye Stillwater Limited: Operating update





 

Sibanye Stillwater Limited (Sibanye-Stillwater or the Group) (JSE: SSW and NYSE: SBSW – https://www.commodity-tv.com/ondemand/companies/profil/sibanye-stillwater-ltd/ ) is pleased to provide an operating update for the quarter ended 31 March 2022 (Q1 2022).  The Group\-s financial results are only provided on a six-monthly basis.

SALIENT FEATURES – QUARTER ENDED 31 MARCH 2022 COMPARED TO QUARTER ENDED 31 MARCH 2021 (Q1 2021)

Solid Group financial performance with Group adjusted EBITDA of R13.7 billion (US$898 million)

Consistent operating performance across all PGM segments

US PGM recycling operations deliver solid performance

Lockout at SA gold operations continues

Keliber definitive feasibility study (DFS) completed

OVERVIEW FOR THE QUARTER ENDED 31 MARCH 2022 COMPARED TO QUARTER ENDED 31 MARCH 2021

The strategic benefits of the Group\-s growth and diversification are evident in the solid financial performance delivered for Q1 2022. The operating environment during 2022 has been characterised by socio-political and economic uncertainty, however the Group remains well positioned to navigate through these challenges, both in the internal and the external environment.

Restrictions relating to COVID-19 have reduced significantly in most of the world with the chip shortage affecting global auto production during H2 2021 alleviating during the quarter. The continued pursuit of a zero COVID strategy in China and the conflict in Ukraine, combined with the economic sanctions imposed on Russia have however heightened economic uncertainty, resulting in significant commodity price volatility. In South Africa the socio-economic and labour environment remains challenging, with the lockout of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) at our SA gold operations, following extended wage negotiations, currently entering the third month. We continue to engage with organised labour in order to secure a fair and sustainable agreement, but will not be coerced into above inflation wage demands which may impact on the sustainability of our operations and negatively impact other stakeholders.

Notwithstanding the prevailing global geopolitical uncertainties, precious metal prices have remained robust, albeit with significant volatility, and, underpinned by a strong operating performance from our SA PGM operations, Group adjusted EBITDA of R13.7 billion (US$898 million) for Q1 2022 was strong, albeit 31% lower than for Q1 2021 (which at the time was a record quarterly financial result). On an annualised basis, Q1 2022 adjusted EBITDA equates to approximately R55 billion (US$3.6 billion). This is well above adjusted EBITDA for 2020 of R49.4 billion (US$3 billion) and R15 billion (US$1 billion) for 2019. Other than the record adjusted EBITDA of R68.6 billion (US$4.6 billion) for 2021, the Q1 2022 annualised adjusted EBITDA is the highest since the inception of the Group, signaling a significant and sustainable transformation in the financial position and outlook of the Group. 

Our value creation journey and solid financial position, was recently confirmed by a meaningful upgrade in the Group\-s credit rating by Moody\-s Investors Service at the end of April 2022 from Ba3 to Ba2 with a positive outlook.

Another highlight for the quarter, was Sibanye-Stillwater\-s re-inclusion in the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index (GEI) at the end of January 2022, an affirmation of progress in our inclusivity journey. Subsequent to the inclusion in the GEI, our senior leadership was further diversified and strengthened with two out of three executive-level promotions awarded to women from historically disadvantages backgrounds during the period.

SAFE PRODUCTION

Following the implementation of additional targeted safety initiatives, including our \”Rules of Life\” campaign during H2 2021 and decisive actions taken during Q4 2021 to address the occurrence of fatal incidents, including suspending operations across the Group and halting production at high incident shafts, we have seen a pleasing improvement in the Group safety performance.  

The consistent improvements in all safety injury indicators observed during H2 2021, were maintained during Q1 2022, with the overall Group Total Recordable Injury Frequency Rate (TRIFR) reducing from 7.84 (per million hours) for Q1 2021 to 5.71 for Q1 2022, a notable 27% improvement year-on-year.

Similar trends were observed in other safety indicators including a 23% improvement in the Serious Injury Frequency Rate (SIFR), and a 30% improvement in the Lost Day Injury Frequency Rate (LDIFR) for Q1 2022 compared with Q1 2021.

While the focus on continued improvement in all aspects of safety will be maintained, the primary focus during 2022, will be on the continued implementation of the \”Fatal elimination strategy\”, which was developed in conjunction with independent experts during Q4 2021. The focus of the strategy is to operationalise and institutionalise the commitment and responsibility for safety among line management of operations and to mitigate high energy risks.

The tragic occurrence of three fatalities during Q1 2022 (compared with three fatalities experienced during Q1 2021), has again underscored the importance of implementing this campaign which is well advanced in its roll out throughout the Group. On 19 January 2022, Mr Thabile Cele (age 36), a locomotive operator at Driefontein Pitseng shaft, was fatally injured in a tramming accident, and on 14 February 2022, Mr Mhahapile Mphaphuli (age 52), a train driver assistant at the Rustenburg Central Service Railway Operations was fatally injured in a surface railway accident. Regrettably, after an extended period in hospital after a scraper related incident on 21 October 2021 at Beatrix South shaft, on 27 February 2022, Mr Makatisi Madie (age 47) a winch operator  succumbed to injuries he incurred during the incident. As a result of these unfortunate events, the fatal injury frequency rate (FIFR) increased from 0.079 in Q1 2021 to 0.084 in Q1 2022.

The Board and Management of Sibanye-Stillwater extend their sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of our three departed colleagues. We remain committed to the continuous improvement in health and safety at our operations and we have enhanced our risk approach to make fatality prevention our main priority.

OPERATING REVIEW

US PGM operations

2E PGM production from the US PGM operations was in line with Q4 2021 (due to the operational stoppages in June 2021 and subsequent  operating restrictions, it is more meaningful to compare the US PGM operations with Q4 2021 rather than Q1 2021) with production stabilising. The US PGM operations remained constrained by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) section 103(k) order imposed after the fatal incident which occurred  in June 2021, which was only lifted on 1 March 2022 (after 265 days). Despite the lifting of the MSHA order, production from the Stillwater West mine will remain restricted due to the current self-imposed rail operating procedures which will remain in place until collision avoidance systems have been implemented at the operations, at which point these procedures will be reviewed in consultation with MSHA. 

The operational review to optimise operating output to ensure an appropriate sustainable return on capital from the US PGM operations is currently being undertaken considering: operating, inflation, supply chain and human resources constraints currently being experienced (e.g. increased reliance on contract labour due to a skills shortage in Montana), as well as the medium and longer term outlook for the palladium market. The review is expected to be completed by mid-year. Since the acquisition of Stillwater, the world-class high-grade orebody has repaid its acquisition cost and further prudent allocation of capital is expected to continue to deliver superior returns over more than three decades of operating life.

Mined 2E PGM production from the US PGM operations of 122,389 2Eoz for Q1 2022 was negatively impacted by the constraints mentioned above. In addition, certain blocks at the East Boulder mine encountered poor ground conditions which are having a short term impact on both grade and productivity at this operation.

AISC of US$1,244/2Eoz (R18,940/2Eoz) for Q1 2022 was 11% higher than for Q4 2021 (US$1,120/2Eoz, R17,265/2Eoz), primarily due to lower grades and the operational challenges at the East Boulder mine and higher ore reserve development expenditure (ORD). ORD increased by 36% to US$42 million (R637 million) due to an increase in primary development quarter on quarter and a change in the accounting classification of growth capital expenditure (see below*) resulted in sustaining capital increasing by 14% quarter on quarter to US$11 million (R166 million). AISC was also impacted by higher royalties, insurance and taxes which combined accounted for US$177/2Eoz in Q1 2022 compared to US$153/2Eoz for Q4 2021, a 16% increase.

Total capital expenditure for Q1 2022 declined by 8% to US$74 million (R1.1 billion) quarter on quarter with project capital declining by  47% to US$21 million (R319 million) due to the change in accounting classification of ORD.

*The change in the classification of Stillwater East development from growth capital to sustaining capital (ORD) during the quarter, resulted in an increase in ORD expenditure (and corresponding decrease in Project capital) which contributed to the increase in AISC. Part of the operational review involves reassessing the rate of development at Stillwater East in the light of significant development costs arising from premiums on contractor costs. As a result, the completion of the 56 level holing to the Benbow decline later this year will be the only remaining Stillwater East expansion project in the short term.

US PGM recycling operations

The global autocatalyst recycling market remains constrained due to ongoing logistics, transport (port congestion and truck shortage) and fuel cost challenges, which affected receipt rates for our US PGM recycling operation during Q1 2022. Despite these constraints, the US PGM recycling operation delivered a solid operational and financial performance. The US PGM recycling operations fed an average of 23.7 tonnes per day (tpd) of spent autocatalyst material for Q1 2022, consistent with the 23.8 tpd fed for Q1 2021. During Q1 2022, recycling operations fed 190,871 3Eoz, marginally less than the 195,474 3Eoz fed in Q1 2021.

PGM recycling ounces sold declined by 32% to 147,571 3Eoz with the average basket price received for Q1 2022 of US$3,061/3Eoz, 5% higher than for Q1 2021. The marginal pipeline build during the quarter, largely due to the timing of customer receipts, is expected to be released during Q2 2022.

SA PGM operations

The SA PGM operations continued to perform strongly, producing 421,540 4Eoz in Q1 2022 (including third party purchase of concentrate (PoC)), 5% lower than for Q1 2021. Underground production of 370,272 4Eoz was 5% lower year-on-year but partly offset by 15% higher surface production of 40,576 4Eoz.

4E PGM production from the SA PGM operations (excluding PoC) of 410,848 4Eoz, was 3% lower year-on-year, primarily due to a slower than planned return to work at the Marikana and Rustenburg operations after the Christmas break.

Cost management excellence, despite inflationary pressures was again evident from the 6% reduction in AISC compared to Q1 2021 (including third party PoC purchases) to R18,600/4Eoz (US$1,222/4Eoz), primarily due to reduced third party PoC material purchases. AISC (excluding PoC) for Q1 2022 was only 1% higher year-on-year at R17,886/4Eoz (US$1,175/4Eoz), despite marginally lower production. This consistently good cost management from the SA PGM operations was maintained despite the impact of inflationary pressures affecting the mining industry globally, partially offset by higher credits received from the by- products sold as result of increased metal prices and is in stark contrast to the double-digit cost increases reported by PGM industry peers during the past 12 months.

The Marikana operation continued to deliver consistently good operating results. Production of 169,102 4Eoz (excluding PoC) was 3% lower year-on-year with production from surface sources down 2% to 6,562 4Eoz and underground production 3% lower at 162,540 4Eoz, due to a slower than expected ramp-up in January 2022. Costs for Q1 2022 were again well managed with AISC (excluding PoC) R17,806/4Eoz (US$1,170/4Eoz) 5% lower year-on-year. PGM production of 179,794 4Eoz in Q1 2022 (including PoC) was 7% lower than Q1 2021 primarily due to 44% lower third party PoC production of 10,692 4Eoz due to the wind down of two third party PoC contracts during Q4 2021. AISC (including PoC) of R19,372/4Eoz (US$1,273/4Eoz) was 17% lower year-on-year due to a significant reduction in PoC purchase costs due to the  lower levels of PoC material purchased.

4E PGM production from the Rustenburg operation for Q1 2022 of 149,041 4Eoz was 5% lower year-on-year. Underground production of 130,171 4Eoz declined by 6% also due to the slower than expected start-up in January 2022, temporary operational challenges at Siphumelele and Khuseleka conventional shafts and at the Bathopele mechanised mine which is currently mining through the Hex River fault. This was partly offset by 6% higher surface production of 18,870 4Eoz. AISC for the Rustenburg operation increased by only 5% year-on-year to R20,041/4Eoz (US$1,317/4Eoz) driven by lower underground production and inflationary cost pressures, partly offset by lower royalties and the impact on inventory movement caused by the 4E basket mix included in the period end inventory valuation.

PGM production of 49,518 4Eoz from the Kroondal operation, was 7% lower than for Q1 2021 due to adverse ground conditions at both Kroondal East and West which led to lower yields, particularly in March 2022 and is expected, as planned to continue for the remainder of the year. AISC of R14,863/4Eoz (US$977/4Eoz), was 22% higher than for Q1 2021 as a result of lower production and additional underground support required for the adverse ground conditions. The open pit Klipfontein project is now fully ramped up and produced around 3,000 4Eoz (metal in concentrate) in March 2022 on a 100% basis. The final project capital expenditure of R10 million (





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