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Platinum giant Amplats books profit despite strikes

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The Anglo American Platinum mine in Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg, pictured on January 16, 2013. The world's top platinum producer Anglo American Platinum on Monday reported a swing back to profit in the first half of 2013, boosted by the weaker rand and increased sales. (AFP/File)

The world's top platinum producer Anglo American Platinum on Monday reported a swing back to profit in the first half of 2013, boosted by the weaker rand and increased sales.

The South Africa-based miner reported profits of 1.2 billion rand ($125 million) for the first six months of the year.

The profits mark a strong recovery from a loss of 450 million rand in the same period a year ago, when earnings were hit by strikes over pay and working conditions.

The company said it was pleased to report "significant improvement in production performance" despite the intermittent illegal strikes which were still continuing to affect output.

"Although we believe that the longer term supply and demand outlook for the platinum business remains attractive, the operating environment remains difficult," said chief executive Chris Griffith.

Amplats accounts for almost 40 percent of global platinum production.

Griffith added that while the company delivered a strong growth in earnings, there was a need to restructure operations to restore profitability and align production with market demand.

In May the company announced plans to cut 6,000 jobs to minimise the impact of loses suffered during work stoppages. It said most of the cuts would come in the northern city of Rustenburg, the centre of deadly labour violence last year.

The company is revising its refined platinum production target for 2013 to 2.3 million ounces, as a result of the delay in the implementation of the restructuring proposals.

Meanwhile a union said production was reportedly halted at one of Amplat's facilities Monday, after a rockfall trapped two mineworkers underground.

The two workers were drilling in the mine's Batho Pele East shaft in Rustenburg on Saturday when the accident happened, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) shaft leader George Tyobeka told AFP.

"Ground became loose and fell on top of them," Tyobeka.

Rescue teams have been searching for the workers since Saturday, and surrounding mines Lonmin and Impala Platinum also sent in reinforcements, he said.