Platinum group metals (PGMs), including platinum, palladium,
rhodium, ruthenium, iridium and osmium, have a wide range of
industrial and high technology applications.
A 5kg 99.99 percent pure Platinum ingot in the forge area of the Precious Metals Refinery in Rustenburg.
Approximately 70% of the total platinum consumed worldwide becomes
jewellery or is used in autocatalysts to control emissions from
petrol and diesel engines.
However, this precious metal also has an enormous range of
lesser-known applications, predominantly in the chemical,
electrical, medical, glass and petroleum industries.
We are a major supporter of the Platinum Guild International, which since 1975, has encouraged demand for platinum and established new platinum jewellery markets. Since 2000, China has been the number one platinum jewellery market, followed by Japan and North America. In 2012 gross platinum demand for the fabrication of jewellery rose by 10% to 2.7 million ounces, as strong demand from China and India balanced generally weaker economic conditions across the globe.
Over 94% of new vehicles sold in the world now have autocatalysts fitted thanks to the rapid spread of legislation to control exhaust emissions. Diesel powered vehicles, which can only use predominantly platinum-based autocatalysts, are increasingly popular and will further intensify demand for platinum.
Fuel cell technology
Interest in fuel cell technology has accelerated dramatically over the past decade, largely due to rising concerns about the environment and rising energy costs. Demand is currently low, but gradual growth, first to replace small battery and stationary fuel cells, and later with the commercialisation of fuel cell vehicles, is envisaged.
Around half of world demand for palladium comes from autocatalysts, but it is also used in electronic components, dental alloys and more recently as an emerging jewellery metal in markets such as China. Increased substitution of palladium for platinum in 2012, together with a rise in the production of gasoline vehicles in North America and China, resulted in a 7% increase in global demand for palladium.
Rhodium is an important metal in autocatalytic activity, which accounts for nearly 80% of net demand.
Ruthenium, iridium and osmium
Ruthenium is used by the electronics sector to increase magnetic data-recording memory in hard disks and in plasma display panels of flat screen televisions. Along with iridium, it is also used in chemical and electronic applications. Osmium is used as a catalyst in the pharmaceutical industrial sector and to stain specimens for microscopic analysis.