Mining and metals producer Assmang has declared force majeure on its medium-carbon ferro-manganese production in South Africa, a source told Fastmarkets recently.
Assmang produces refined ferro-manganese at its Cato Ridge Alloys plant in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal and halted production last week. The force majeure declaration was made in the first week of 2021 after it became clear there would be a shortage of oxygen due to supplies being diverted to hospitals to help deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, the source said. Oxygen is needed in medium-carbon and low-carbon ferro-manganese production to reduce the carbon content.
“It is unclear when Assmang will restart production,” the source said. “As long as the hospitals need whatever oxygen is available, then production will be stopped. An alternative source of oxygen was found [to maintain] medium-carbon ferro-manganese production at Cato Ridge in the first week of January, but that too was unavailable a week later,” the source added.
On January 11, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa extended coronavirus restrictions in the country, citing a “massive increase” in COVID-19 cases driven by a virulent new local variant, which was discovered in the country last year. The restrictions were due to expire on January 15.
Medical experts have said the second wave has yet to reach its peak in the country of around 60 million people, and worry that healthcare services in South Africa may struggle to cope with the influx of patients. And some believe a third wave may happen when winter comes in the southern hemisphere in May and June, and are worried that the existing vaccines may be less effective against the new variant.