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South African gold output extends biggest drop in a decade

South African gold production shrank for an 18th straight month in March, extending the longest run of contractions since the financial crisis.

Output of the precious metal dropped 18% from a year earlier compared with a 21% decline in February, Pretoria-based Statistics South Africa said in a statement Thursday. Production contracted for 29 months through January 2009.

Key Insights

  • South Africa used to be the world’s top producer of the metal but deeper ore bodies, labor strife, high costs and policy uncertainty have crimped output.
  • A strike by members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union that started in November and ended in mid-April has slashed output at the South African operations of Sibanye Gold Ltd., the biggest producer of the metal from local mines.
  • Total mining output declined 1.1% from a year earlier, compared with a revised contraction of 8.1% in February.
  • The country is the world’s biggest platinum producer. Output of platinum-group metals, which include palladium, fell for the first time in seven months, shrinking 0.5%.
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