Sources of PGMs from South Africa, Russia likely to change

November 28, 2012

The U.S. Geological Service (USGS) found that sources of platinum group metal supplies from top producers South Africa and Russia are likely to change as current deposits are being depleted. South Africa, Russia, Canada and Zimbabwe will likely remain the world’s top suppliers of PGMs from now until 2015.

In a research report by D.R. Wilburn titled, “Global exploration and production capacity for platinum-group metals from 1995 through 2015,” the USGS said the shallow Merensky deposits of South Africa are being depleted, so miners are starting to drill into the deeper, higher cost Upper Group Reef seam 2 deposits. These deposits require modifications to the processing techniques and these techniques are currently being developed. “A greater percentage of the supply of PGMs from South Africa is likely to come from the Eastern Bushveld deposits,” Wilburn said in the report.

Wilburn noted in 1995, 6 percent of the palladium reserve, 4 percent of the platinum reserve and 4 percent of the rhodium reserve came from the Eastern Bushveld.

By 2015, it’s estimated that 29 perent of the rhodium reserve, 27 percent of the palladium reserve and 25 percent of the platinum reserve for mines producing PGMs in South Africa will be sourced from this region. “Although a typical PGM deposit in South Africa contains more platinum than palladium, as the amount of mining in the Eastern Bushveld increases, the proportional amount of palladium that is recoverable from South African deposits will likely increase. As the amount of mining from the (Upper Group) seam deposits increases, the overall rhodium content of PGMs from South African deposits is likely to increase,” Wilburn said.

Russia will likely mine a significant amount of PGMs from the deposits on the Taimyr Peninsula and the Kola Peninsula during the next decade, specific PGM supply sources from Russia are changing, he said, as the geology changes.

The capacity of mine containing cuprous sulfides and sulfides with disseminated PGMs is rising faster than mines deriving PGMs from nickel-rich sulfide ores, he said. These newer mines generally have a lower PGM content and different palladium-to-platinum ratio than the nickel-rich ores.
The report said platinum capacity worldwide is expected to further increase by 24,000 kilograms in South Africa, 9,000 kg in Russia, 3,000 kg in Canada, and 2,000 kg in Zimbabwe from 2011 through 2015. Palladium capacity worldwide is likewise expected to increase an additional 16,000 kg in Russia, 14,000 kg in South Africa, 4,000 kg in Zimbabwe, and 1,000 kg in Canada if new or expanded mine and associated processing capacity comes into production as planned.

“It is likely that the magnitude of these changes in PGM capacity has been influenced by such factors as the global economy, electrical capacity shortages and mine safety concerns in South Africa, and geopolitical conditions in the major PGM producing countries,” Wilburn said.



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