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UPDATE 2-Amplats to raise output after high metals prices boost profit

* Miner posts 63% jump in annual profit

* Rand weakness helps to reduce costs

* Aims to boost output by 20% by 2030

* Plans to drive mechanisation of all operations (Adds output strategy)

JOHANNESBURG, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) on Monday posted a price-driven jump in annual profit and set its sights on boosting output by 20% while looking to capitalises on global decarbonisation efforts.

Precious metals miners have been a bright spot in South Africa’s battered economy, reporting surging profits as higher metals prices cushion the impact of the coronavirus crisis, with a strong outlook for autocatalyst metals such as platinum and palladium in the global push to reduce carbon emmissions.

Platinum is also used in hydrogen fuel cells, increasingly seen as a key technology in the battle to reduce emmissions.

Johannesburg-listed Amplats, one of the world’s largest platinum producers, said it plans to increase output of platinum group metals from 3 million ounces to 3.6 million ounces by 2030, with the bulk of the increase coming from its Mogalakwena open-pit platinum mine in Limpopo province.

“Climate change is rapidly accelerating global decarbonisation efforts, which will increase the long-term demand for our metals,” said Amplats Chief Executive Natascha Viljoen.

To help it to meet its target, Amplats is undertaking modernisation and mechanisation work at all operations, it said.

Amplats reported headline earnings per share rose 63% to 115.54 rand ($7.83) in 2020 as supply shortfalls drove up prices of metals including platinum, palladium and rhodium.

Amplats said the average dollar basket price of the platinum group metals (PGM) increased by 51% year on year. A weaker rand, which reduces production costs, further boosted full-year earnings.

Total output of PGM concentrates during the year fell 14% to 3.808 million ounces because of coronavirus lockdown restrictions in South Africa and Zimbabwe, but revenue increased by more than 38% to 137.8 billion rand.

The precious metals miner said it had a build-up of work-in-progress inventory of about 1 million PGM ounces owing to disruptions caused after an explosion at its Anglo Converter Plant (ACP) processing site last year.

Amplats said it expects the inventory build-up to be released by the end of 2022 and declared a final dividend of 35.35 rand per share. Last year the miner announced a base dividend of 16.60 rand and a special dividend of 25 rand. ($1 = 14.7628 rand) (Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and David Goodman)

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