Platinum Mining & Production

Where Does Platinum Come From?

Almost 60% of the world’s new Platinum production occurs in South Africa, and over a quarter in Russia. Other major producing countries are Zimbabwe, Canada and the USA.

According to U.S. Geological Survey, Mineral Commodity Summaries, January 2013, 95% of known world reserves of platinum group metals are in South Africa. Since South African deposits tend to be mostly platinum, roughly 60%, then we can surmise that an even higher percentage of know reserves of platinum are in South Africa.

Most ore from which platinum is mined is found at depths greater than 500 metres, and sometimes as low as 2000 metres below ground. The ore bodies are relatively narrow, at only 1 – 2 metres wide. These two factors add greatly to the cost of mining platinum and other platinum group metals.

It takes between 10 and 40 tonnes of ore to be mined and processed to produce one ounce of platinum.  One ounce is about 30 grams so it takes between 300kg and 1300kg of ore per gram of platinum produced.

In nature platinum, and other platinum group metals, occur where nickel and copper are present. In fact, most platinum produced by Russia is as a by-product of nickel mining.

The extraction and subsequent refining of ore to produce platinum is a complex and costly undertaking.

During production the platinum group metals are separated from the base metals, such as copper and nickel, and then refined.

To produce a gram of platinum immense amounts of energy are used, waste rock is produced, water is used, chemicals are used, tailings are disposed of or stored and emissions are generated.

In 2011 about 200 tonnes of platinum was produced worldwide (a similar amount to palladium)

Palladium is also gaining popularity as a jewellery metal in its own right. Will it be the next Platinum? Only time will tell.