Tshipi wins right to partially restart manganese ore operations in South Africa

South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) has granted approval for Tshipi é Ntle Manganese Mining to partially restart operations at the Tshipi Borwa manganese mine from April 14, Jupiter Mines, which operates Borwa, said on the same day.

South Africa’s miners have been under lockdown since midnight on March 26 as part of the government’s campaign against the Covid-19 virus.

But miners can apply to the DMR for a partial lifting of restrictions if they can demonstrate they have taken sufficient precautions to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

The volumes of material involved in Tshipi’s partial restart were not declared. Tshipi also faces a delay before it can go into production and then export material.

Mineral sand miner MRC received permission for a restart of operations from DMR on April 8 and expected to restart activity at its Tormin site in the Western Cape region of South Africa by April 13, the company said on April 8.

Permission to restart operations means miners can bring back their workforce, who will need to go through training before they can restart work at the mine, under South African law.

Additionally, any miners with permission to restart will still need to be able to move their material via road or rail to a port and onto a vessel that has space and permission to leave before they can export.

“There is no clarity from Transnet [South Africa’s state transport operator] on whether material can be moved,” a producer said. “Logistics will continue to be a problem.”

Tshipi became South Africa’s largest manganese ore producer by export volume in 2017 and sold 3.5 million tonnes in the 12 months to February 28, 2019.

The company declared force majeure on March 26 following the lockdown of mining activity in South Africa.

Seaborne manganese ore prices soared in the pricing session ending April 14 following the extension of the lockdown in South Africa by an additional two weeks to the end of April in response to the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Fastmarkets’ manganese ore index 37% Mn, cif Tianjin, surged 10.3% or 47 cents per dry metric tonne unit (dmtu) or to $5.05 per dmtu on April 15 from $4.58 per dmtu on April 3.