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Business News of Monday, 30 March 2020


AngloGold Ashanti shuts down mining pits across the globe as lockdowns bites

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AngloGold Ashanti, the South African based mining giant with operations across the globe, is shutting down mining operations across the globe in response to lockdown directives from the host countries.

In a release, the company noted that operations in Argentina, South Africa, and Brazil have shut down operations in compliance with national directives on lockdowns to stem the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

“On March 21, 2020, following the Argentinian government’s decision to impose a nationwide lockdown (quarantine) until 31 March 2020, including temporary travel restrictions, border closings and suspension of most industries, Cerro Vanguardia S.A. (CVSA) was required to temporarily suspend mining activities.

On March 23, 2020, the South African government announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown, effective from midnight on 26 March 2020, resulting in the temporary suspension of mining activities of the company’s South African operations particularly Mponeng, and the partial suspension of mining activities at Mine Waste Solutions and Surface Operations.

On March 26, 2020, the State of Goiás, in Brazil, extended a set of restrictions on the operation of non-essential business, to include mining. These restrictions are set to run through 4 April 2020. Mineração Serra Grande S.A. will temporarily suspend its operations. In each case, the suspension of mining activities will continue for the period during which the respective restrictions remain in force,” the statement said.

Other operations still active

It added that the rest of AngloGold Ashanti’s mines in its diversified portfolio of 14 assets in nine countries, continue to operate. For the sites where production has been suspended, plans for a safe and smooth ramp-up, and for safely regaining part of the delayed production, are being developed, the statement noted.

“We have been proactive in positioning ourselves to respond to the impact of the outbreak,” said CEO Kelvin Dushnisky. “We will respond quickly and work in deep partnership with stakeholders whilst doing our part in fighting this global pandemic.”

Worries of prolonged closures

The pandemic, if prolonged, would have a wide range of impacts, including the direct consequences of the virus on the health of employees and communities, but also the consequent restrictions to travel and work put in place by governments to slow its spread.

“There would also be other consequences, including temporary mine site closures, and the reduced ability to effectively move people, supplies and equipment to sites amongst others. These may cause production interruptions or delays to projects. These risks are being continually evaluated and we have – and are developing — the necessary contingency plans to mitigate them.”

AngloGold Ashanti added that it has taken a number of proactive steps to protect employees, host communities and business, in line with the company’s values, guidelines and advice provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and with the requirements of the countries in which we operate. “The health and wellbeing of our employees and our host communities remains our key priority.”

A cross-functional team, including operations, technical, finance, health, community, government relations and other support disciplines, is helping to guide the response to the crisis.

The company has for some time employed increased screening and surveillance of employees, stopped non-essential travel, instituted mandatory quarantine for arriving travellers and increased hygiene awareness across its operations, in addition to a range of other measures to mitigate the risks presented by the virus. It has also worked with local communities to help bolster their responses to the outbreak. These initiatives have complemented government responses in each of its operating jurisdictions.

Sourcing supplies

As a precaution against the potential effects of the pandemic on the company’s ability to secure spares and consumables, the company noted that its supply chain teams have proactively placed orders to build increased safety stocks on critical items at our operations.

“Specific inventories depend on the level of risk identified in each region, lead time considerations, and storage capacity. In general, we are targeting inventories of three to six months on primary consumables, while recognising we have the support of strategic partnerships with key suppliers who themselves are maintaining inventories in the respective regions for many critical items.”

COVID-19 derails progress made in 2020

The company had a good start to the year, and – notwithstanding an anticipated impact of 30,000oz – 40,000 oz from operations that are suspended at this stage (less than 2 percent of annual production) – AngloGold Ashanti currently remains on track to meet its annual guidance.

Nonetheless, given the uncertainties with respect to future developments, including duration, severity and scope of the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary government responses to limiting its spread, AngloGold Ashanti has decided to withdraw its market guidance at this time.

The company will continue to focus on the necessary steps to protect people, work to meet production targets and to secure the longer-term future of the business during this period of uncertainty.

AngloGold Ashanti is implementing cash conservation measures, including focused capital prioritisation and reducing non-essential spending across the business and is well positioned to weather the current market uncertainty. At the end of 2019, the company had US$463million of cash, US$2billion of debt and revolving credit facilities with US$1.42billion and R4.65billion available.

The company has drawn down US$1.4 billion on its US Dollar RCF to cater for the U$700 million bond redemption due mid-April 2020 and to provide additional liquidity headroom. After the drawdowns, cash on hand is approximately US$1.8 billion (excluding cash lock-up positions at Kibali and Sadiola, where AngloGold Ashanti’s combined share totals about US$300 million). Management, the statement added, will continue to take a prudent and proactive approach to managing the company’s liquidity, which may include procuring additional credit facilities or debt over and above its current facilities.