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Amplats declares first dividend in 7 yrs, no big projects this year

The Anglo American logo is seen in Rusternburg October 5, 2015. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world's top platinum producer, declared its first dividend in seven years on Monday as full-year headline earnings more than doubled and said it was not committing capital to major projects in 2018.

The company's tight-fisted investment stance highlights the fragile state of platinum mining in South Africa, home to around two-thirds of known reserves where the industry has battled for years in the face of soaring costs, depressed prices, policy uncertainty and spasms of violent labour and social unrest.

Amplats has been pivoting from the labour-intensive methods that have defined South Africa platinum mining to more mechanised mining - a pivot that appears to be paying off.

The Anglo American unit said headline earnings more than doubled to 3.9 billion rand ($335 million) in 2017, in line with what it previously flagged to the market, lifted by cost cutting and a higher dollar basket price for platinum group metals.

"No major project capital will be committed in 2018," the company said.

However, Amplats said it was looking at future expansion projects at Mogalakwena, a mechanised open-pit operation that is its main cash-spinner and where it recently reached a deal with local communities and tribal authorities aimed at dousing the flames of social unrest.

($1 = 11.6550 rand)

(Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)