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Platinum produced since 1900

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Category: Sustainability

Subject: Platinum produced since 1900

Question

I understand South Africa is the biggest producer of platinum and it was mined in South Africa as from 1924. Could you tell me how much platinum has been produced worldwide since 1900?

Answer

Exact figures before 1975 are not available, but an idea of the scale of platinum production can be obtained through historical accounts, including the book “A History of Platinum” by D. McDonald and L. B. Hunt (1).

In the early 20th Century, production of the platinum group metals was largely based in North America, primarily at Sudbury, Canada. Between 1902 and 1919 a total of 33,000 oz platinum and 53,000 oz palladium were produced and refined by Johnson Matthey from Canadian mines. By 1929, a total of 300,000 oz of platinum group metals per year were being produced. This was the major source of platinum group metals until the growth of the South African mines.

Platinum group metals were also sourced from alluvial deposits in Alaska and mines in Russia during this time. Available figures (1, 2) total around 500,000 oz platinum produced between 1915 and 1962 from these two sources, but the actual quantity is likely to be significantly higher.

The Merensky Reef in South Africa, the largest source of platinum in the world, was discovered in 1924 (3). In 1938 25,000 oz platinum were produced. Production increased during the Second World War, to 40,000 oz per year. After this time, steadily increasing demand from industry led to increased production, estimated at 70,000 oz per year by 1948 and 200,000 oz per year by 1955. This rose to 850,000 oz per year and then in 1973 reached 1,000,000 oz per year.

Detailed figures for the supply of platinum from 1975 to the latest published year are freely available from the website Platinum Today.

Between 1975 and 2006, a total of 130,715,000 troy oz platinum were supplied worldwide, which is equivalent to about 4,065,236 kg or 4,065 tonnes (4).

Sources:

1 “A History of Platinum and its Allied Metals”, Donald McDonald and Leslie B. Hunt, Johnson Matthey, London, 1982; and references therein

2 ‘Platinum Mining in Alaska’, C. Johnston, Platinum Metals Rev., 1962, 6, (2), 68

3 ‘Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the Discovery of the Platiniferous Merensky Reef’, R. G. Cawthorn, Platinum Metals Rev., 1999, 43, (4), 146

4 Platinum Today: Market data tables

Answer posted 15 August 2007

Submitted by: Mr Martin Gauch

Answered by: Sara Coles

Affiliation: Johnson Matthey Technology Review