South Africa Turmoil Sends Rhodium & Palladium Production to Eastern Bushveld
A larger amount of platinum group metals will have to come from the Eastern Bushveld as current deposits in South Africa are being depleted and disrupted, according to new research by the US Geological Service (USGS). The new report says shallow Merensky deposits are running out in top producing countries like South Africa and Russia, forcing miners to drill deeper to UG2 deposits.
“A greater percentage of the supply of pgms from South Africa is likely to come from the Eastern Bushveld deposits,” said David R Wilburn in the study titled ‘Global exploration and production capacity for platinum group metals from 1995 through 2015′.
In 1995, only six percent of the palladium reserve, four percent of platinum and four percent of the rhodium reserve came from the Eastern Bushveld.
By 2015, 29% of the rhodium reserve,27% of the palladium reserve, and 25% of the platinum reserve for mines producing pgms in South Africa will originate 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,” said Wilburn. ”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.”
In the future, Russian pgm capacity is suspected to most likely originate from ore zones with lower pgm content and different platinum-to-palladium ratios than the nickel-rich ore favored throughout the 1990s. According to Wilburn, the recycled pgms recovered from these products accounted for 30% of the supply of platinum worldwide and 29% of the palladium worldwide in 2010.
“It is expected that South Africa, Russia, Canada, and Zimbabwe will continue to be the principal sources of pgm at least for the next decade,” adds Wilburn.
Total recoverable platinum and palladium rose significantly between 1995 and 2010, and further increases are expected through to 2015.