Technologies used to carve subways and clear landmines are being retooled to mechanise SA’s platinum mines, where an unforgiving geology has stymied such efforts at a huge cost. The technologies may make new mines profitable and could provide a lifeline for some loss-making shafts in a sector battered by low prices and social unrest — but there are limits. Innovations include a 60cm-high bulldozer built by private Croatian landmine clearance company Dok-ing that can reach narrow reefs, and a machine engineered by Atlas Copco unit Epiroc to replace blasting. The stakes are high in the world’s top producer of the metal: most of SA’s platinum shafts are losing money, while the handful of mechanised ones are profitable. Used for emissions-capping automotive catalysts, the price of platinum remains pinned below $1,000 an ounce, less than half the lofty peaks it scaled a decade ago. Little upside is seen with diesel car sales falling. An unpublished report by the Chamber of Mines says: "U...

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