Our products and their markets

The unique properties and varied applications of the platinum group metals (PGMs) make these metals crucial components of modern life.

PGMs are exceptionally durable and highly recyclable: over 96% of PGMs can be recovered through advanced recycling techniques. This ensures that they have a long life-cycle, repaying the effort and expense of extracting them from the ground. In addition, the longevity of PGMs means that they do not contribute to the negative environmental impact typically associated with metals waste disposal.

Platinum

Platinum is the most abundant of the PGMs. It is not only one of the densest and heaviest metals, but also one of the most durable. It has a very high melting point, is stable at high temperatures, and is resistant to corrosion and chemical breakdown. Platinum is primarily used in auto-catalysts, jewellery, medical implants and surgical equipment.

Palladium

Palladium is the lightest of the PGMs and has the lowest melting point. Its most remarkable property is an ability to absorb significant amounts of hydrogen at room temperature, making it an efficient and safe medium for the storage of hydrogen and as a purifier. Palladium’s applications include catalysis and reformation for portable power applications.

Rhodium

Rhodium is a hard and durable metal with a very high melting point and this, combined with its temperature stability and corrosion resistance, makes it key to many industrial processes. The metal’s hardness makes it an excellent alloying agent for hardening platinum. Rhodium is also used in catalysis.

Ruthenium

Ruthenium’s applications include computer hard disk drives and chemical catalysts.

Iridium

Iridium is used in laboratory crucibles for the production of crystals necessary for the LED technology found in modern applications such as flat screen televisions.

Catalysis

The use of PGMs in automotive catalytic converters helps to the reduction of the air pollution and noxious emissions produced by motor vehicles. Catalytic converters are honeycomb-like structures with channels that are coated with compounds of Platinum, Palladium and/or Rhodium. These structures enable the maximum volume of exhaust gas produced by the engine to be exposed to the catalyst, which removes noxious pollutants from the exhaust gas. This is achieved through the conversion of more than 95% of the hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrous oxides produced by the motor vehicle engine, into less harmful compounds such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water.

As the world becomes ever-more aware of the impact of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, the automotive industry’s demand for PGMs is likely to remain significant.

Healthcare

PGMs are widely used in a number of healthcare applications. When used in certain compounds, platinum can inhibit the growth of cancerous cell growth. Platinum and palladium are also widely used in dental applications, combined with gold and silver to produce alloys suitable for dental inlays, crowns and bridges.

Investment

Platinum as an investment has a shorter history than gold or silver, yet its appeal as a form of investment – directly in the metal and through exchange traded funds (ETFs) – has grown rapidly in recent years.

Industry and technology

PGMs are contained in many of the applications in the chemical, electronic and petroleum industries. In the agricultural industry, they are used in the commercial production of nitric acid, an essential ingredient in nitrogen fertiliser. Nitrogen fertiliser enhances growth by stimulating chloroplasts in plants, which are responsible for the process of photosynthesis.

In the electronics industry, palladium is used in hybrid integrated circuits and computers, while magnetic platinum-cobalt alloys are important components of computer hard disks.

Jewellery

Platinum is a naturally white precious metal with numerous properties that make it a preferred medium for jewellery-making. These include its strength, resistance to tarnishing and its durability. Its rarity and the satisfying, weighty feel of platinum jewellery add to its appeal, particularly in the bridal sector of the market. This year we have again sponsored the design innovations awards that recognise outstanding jewellery design in platinum. See Case study: Lonmin Design Innovation Award 2013.

Fuel cells

Fuel cells generate electro-chemical by reacting hydrogen and oxygen over a catalyst such as Platinum. Silent in their operation, fuel cells can be used for both stationary and mobile applications. The adoption of stationary fuel cell solutions is already rising, especially in Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea. Vehicular fuel cell technology however, is still in the first-of-a-kind commercial demonstration phase at this stage.

GRI
2.2
Major products.
PGMs sales by product in 2013 (%) [graph]
Platinum demand in 2013 (%) [graph]
PGMs market by geographic destination in 2013 (%) [graph]

Source: SFA (Oxford) 2013, estimated

GRI
2.7
Markets served including geographic breakdown/sectors served/customers.