On May 31, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) detected a water leak in the high-pressure cooling section of the Anglo Converter Plant (ACP) Phase B unit. The unit was brought down proactively and safely and all employees evacuated the area safely.

A detailed technical investigation into the cause of this leak and potential repairs is under way, and the company decided to temporarily close the ACP Phase B unit to ensure an ongoing safe operating environment, protect employees and protect the integrity of the plant.

The company reported that this latest action is separate from the repair work that was recently completed at the ACP Phase B unit and there is no damage to the prior repairs or to the furnace.

During the beginning on May the company reported that it had safely and successfully completed the repair of the Phase B unit. The ACP and full downstream processing operations are completing a safe ramp-up and expect to be fully operational by May 12. Force majeure to suppliers of concentrate will be lifted on that date.

“We were vigilant in adhering to strict health and safety protocols to keep the repair team safe during the lockdown, while ensuring that we were able to implement social distancing and hygiene requirements, which form our new way of working during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Amplats CEO Natascha Viljoen said. “We have carried out substantial testing to ensure the stability of the ACP Phase B unit, and as we complete the ramp-up, we are engaging with suppliers of concentrate to lift force majeure imminently. All temporary commercial arrangements applicable during the force majeure period will revert to normal commercial terms.”

The estimated final cost of repairs for ACP Phase B is ZAR150 million ($8.1 million), in line with the lower end of guidance provided. Repair work on the ACP Phase A unit continues and is progressing in line with the project plan. All orders for long lead items have been placed and the dismantling work started on site.

The construction teams were able to continue with repairs in accordance with regulations during the extended South African lockdown. All materials required for repairs were ordered and available on site ahead of the lockdown, and there were no supply chain disruptions that impacted the ability to complete the repairs, Amplats explained. Safety protocols were implemented on site in line with government approvals and regulations. A construction work risk review was completed to determine work phasing, method of execution, key resource identification and increased health protocols.

The ACP construction repair group was split into two teams that self-isolated for the duration of the repair work, and COVID-19 specific health protocols were put in place for cleaning, screening and transport to site, the company said. A new shift pattern was introduced that fostered social distancing. Increased site hygiene measures for sanitization, together with site safety and health supervision were implemented to ensure safety and quality of construction.

Due to the time taken to refine the respective platinum group and base metals, Amplats explained, the force majeure notice remains in effect for refined metal customers. Force majeure arrangements with these customers will be lifted in the future and in line with the provisions of our agreements, the company said.

Amplats said it is retaining its current guidance until they are comfortable with providing an update.