Thursday, February 24, 2011

Platinum, Platina , Platine, PT

Platinum nuggets were first discovered in pre-Colombian times, later by Spanish gold diggers in Columbia,(first written account dated 1557) who were really annoyed by its presence. The metal had no use--its high density was used though to fake gold coins.Today these fakes cost by far more than originals.
As an element it was discovered in S. America by Ulloa in 1735. In Russia , platinum was discovered in 1821 in gold mines of Ural mountains.In 1824, purely platinum ores were discovered in the mountain named "Blagodat'" which means "Bonanza" or "god-given gift" in Russian. Conveniently for Russia, Columbia cut off exports of platinum in 1820. Still, not knowing what to do with this sudden but useless at the time bonanza,(by 1828, Russia was digging up to 1550 kg of platinum per year, which is over 150% of all platinum mining in South America (read "world") from 1741 till 1825 combined), Russian Tsar started to mint platinum coins for circulation, planning to hold on to some gold for
Coins were minted in exact sizes of 25, 50 kopeck coins and 1 rouble and their denominations were 3
(1 371 691 pieces, about 10 grams each), 6 ( 14 847 p ) and 12 roubles (3474 p). Because of a similar size and color with silver coins, and novelty of platinum, it didn't go well with the public though. In 1843, 3500 kg of platinum were produced in Russia versus 20-40 kg in the rest of the world ( read Columbia), and prices started to fall. As a result Russian finance minister Vronchenko ( Ukrainian as a minister in Russia of 1840s? must have been a rare breed) had an attack of paranoia and decided that evil westerners will be forging roubles with cheap platinum bought directly from Russia, and ordered all platinum coin to be taken out of circulation within 6 months, in 1845. Not one fake coin was found.
This drastic and panic measure caused Platinum price to drop so low, that Platinum production went down
almost 100 times by the end of 1840s.

In 1867, Alexander II canceled state monopoly over platinum and allowed tax-free export, so British company-- guess who-- Johnson Matthey & Co, currently largest platinum distributor in the world, bought all of it --all 16+ tonnes (mostly in coin) from Tzar's hands.

As a result, British company became a long-term monopolist in platinum business without producing 1gram of it. Russia was producing 90-95% of world's platinum up until WW1. Price gradually was going up, and in 1920 it was 8 times more expensive than gold. In 1920s, South African mines came into the play. The production of platinum grew continuously, and for many years now South Africa is producing 70-80% of all worlds platinum, generating $7-8 billion by production.

For many decades ores were rich and mining was easy, now it gets quite a bit tougher, especially considering new labor laws in South Africa.

At least 5 major Canadian companies are digging for platinum in SA, and one of them , a Vancouver-based
Platinum Group Metals Ltd ( PTM-T) is building a $443 million mine in Bushveld as we scratching our tongues here. On the other hand , continuous marginalization and zimbabwication of South Africa, continuous talks about nationalization of mines and continuous pressure on mining companies to provide services to towns around their mines that have over 40% unemployment and 6 kids per each woman will not end well in any case.

The Bushveld Complex in South Africa is the main producer area, with the company AMPLATS as the industry leader. The other significant area is the Norilsk region in Russia. Russia is also the only country with significant stockpiles of platinum(it ceased to sell any Pt from state reserves in 2000), although it is believed that their level has decreased. Russian Government export policies have influenced platinum supply volatility.

Production of platinum, kg:           2008         2009
South Africa    , platinum           146 000     140 000
Russia               platinum             23 000      19 747
Canada             platinum               7 000        5 000
Zimbabwe         platinum               5 640       6 000
USA                 platinum               3 580       3 800
Columbia          platinum               1 300          929.182
Other:               platinum               2 140       2 000

Colombia 2010-January -June 413.172 kg of platinum

So the grand total for 2009 was 177 tonnes of platinum. With density at 21.45 g per cubic sm its a small cube with the height of a tall human.

That's about 26 milligram per every human on the planet( as of 2009; production of platinum for 2010 and 2011 was supposed to grow a bit). A small $10 US platinum coin or 1/10th of an ounce coins of Canada, China , Australia contain a hypothetical "share" of 120 people.
South Africa produced a hopping 2.8 grams of platinum per each citizen in 2009.

10-20 tonnes of ore must be processed to get 1 ounce of metal, and it takes 5-6 months.

Platinum is used as a catalyst for countless chemical reactions. The most important use of platinum is in vehicles, as a catalytic converter(especially in diesel engines), facilitating the complete combustion of unburned hydrocarbon passing through the exhaust.

Platinum is used in jewelry, decorative plating and dental work. The metal and its alloys are also used for electrical contacts, fine resistance wires and medical / laboratory instruments.

An alloy of platinum and cobalt is used to make strong permanent magnets.

The metal is also used to make electrodes sealed in glass (as its thermal coefficient of expansion is almost equal to that of glass) and in medicine.

Example of use: Of the 239 tonnes of platinum sold in 2006 (in some years up to 70 tonnes are produced through recycling), 130 tonnes were used for vehicle emissions control devices,49 tonnes for jewelry, 13.3 tonnes in electronics, and 11.2 tonnes in the chemical industry as a catalyst. The remaining 35.5 tonnes went to various other minor applications, such as electrodes,anticancer drugs, oxygen sensors, spark plugs and turbine engines.

Abundance earth's crust: 5 parts per billion by weight, 0.5 parts per billion by atoms
Abundance solar system: 9 part per billion by weight, 0.06 parts per billion by atoms

The Stillwater and East Boulder Mines in south Montana were the only primary platinum-group metals mines in the USA and were owned by one company. Small quantities of PGMs were also recovered as byproducts of copper refining in Texas and Utah.
Import Sources for USA (2005-08): Platinum: South Africa, 27%; Germany, 17%; United Kingdom, 12%; Canada, 5%; and other, 39%.

At today's prices, world production of platinum is about $10.2 billion worth.

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  1. Vronchenko's paranoia seems pretty silly now. Thanks for the info.

  2. Nice info I love your blog.

  3. hi, thank you. Email me your favorite topic if you wish that isn't covered, I'll write an article about it. About what's coming soon: Rhodium, Oil, Alfalfa and green corn, Sorghum and Millet.

  4. Platinum is always a good investment. Very good information to have. Thanks for sharing.

    cash for platinum

  5. This was an interesting and informative post, thanks for sharing. It's amazing how many different uses there are for various types of metals. Although silver and gold are fairly popular, I've found that using platinum for electrical contacts works really well for me!