The six metals
The six platinum group metals are crucial to our daily lives. From fountain pens to aircraft turbines, from anti-cancer drugs to mobile phones, from catalytic converters for automobiles to ceramic glazes, PGMs play a vital role at the heart of everyday living. We estimate that one in four of the goods manufactured today either contain PGMs or had PGMs play a key role in their manufacture.
PGMs will also be central to our future choices in the fields of power generation, transportation, healthcare and a host of other areas. Found together in nature and similar in their chemical properties, PGMs are located next to each other in the periodic table.
PGMs are uniquely durable and can be used extremely efficiently – meaning that a very little goes a very long way. When recycled, over 96 per cent of PGMs are recovered through highly-efficient recycling techniques. Their recyclability means that they have a uniquely long lifecycle, allowing them to contribute significantly to the protection of the environment by reducing any negative impact which is normally associated with metal waste disposal.
Supply & Demand facts:
- The PGMs are mined as a basket – in other words, none of the PGM are mined as individual metals in their own right.
- The main source of primary PGM – and by far the largest known deposit of these metals on Earth – is the Bushveld Igneous Complex (BIC) in South Africa. Mining of the Complex accounts for around 70% of primary platinum supply, 80% of rhodium, 85–90% of ruthenium and iridium, and nearly 40% of palladium.
- Palladium supply is characterised by two major associations, as it is also a significant by-product of nickel mining in Russia.
- The supply of rhodium, ruthenium and iridium is almost entirely a factor of association with platinum in the BIC. Because of their minor occurrence in the ore, it is highly improbable that these metals would ever be mined in their own right.
To learn more about the individual metals themselves, visit the dedicated sections on platinum, palladium, iridium, rhodium, ruthenium and osmium.