Platinum mining is a big business, particularly in South Africa. In fact, South Africa is the largest producer of platinum in the world, accounting for 80% of the world’s supply.
At Scribante Group, we’ve assisted on numerous platinum mining projects in South Africa. Let’s look at the country’s production in more detail to understand why this is such a high-value industry.
Platinum Mining in South Africa
South Africa is the largest producer of platinum in the world but also mines its fair share of platinum group metals (PGMs). For example, South Africa accounts for roughly 40% of the world’s palladium supply.
The country’s PGM supply is located in the Bushfield Igneous Complex (BIC), the world’s largest layered igneous intrusion, which includes the Transvaal Basin. Along with the world’s largest supply of PGMs, the complex contains vast deposits of iron, titanium, tin, and possibly uranium.
The southern-most platinum mines in South Africa are in Free State, but the highest concentrations are in Limpopo and North West Province, which have 35 and 31, respectively. There are numerous platinum mine owners, including Anglo American Platinum Limited, Platinum Group Metals Ltd, and Sibanye Stillwater, among others.
The world’s largest open-pit platinum mine is Mogalakwena, Limpopo, owned by Anglo American. It covers around 72 square kilometers and is estimated to contain 264.9 million oz. of platinum. Theoretically, it’ll last until the 2040s.
Platinum Mining Processes
Platinum mining is an incredibly labor-intensive process, which in part explains its cost. It can take 6 months or more – and 12 tons of ore – to produce a single troy ounce (around 31g) of platinum. To cut down on processing time and cost, many miners streamline their refining processes.
The mines are either underground or open-pit depending on the ore’s distribution and quantity. PGM ore is mined in the traditional way: explosives blast ore apart, which is then transported to the refinery facility. As mentioned, some mines do this on-site. At Mogalakwena Mine, for example, Anglo American installed solar panels to power its mining trucks and refining facilities.
After transportation, the small pieces of ore pass through a bath of chemicals that bind to the platinum and other metals. Then, it undergoes a process called flotation separation. Air passes through the slurry, carrying platinum particles to the top in a froth. This gets skimmed off and dried before going through further refining processes to remove impurities. One ton of powder contains up to 850g of PGMs, but this is refined down to 15-20% PGMs by the final stage.
Platinum mining is a lucrative business in South Africa. Its rarity, and use in jewelry and automotive industries, make it a massively in-demand product. Of course, this is good news for South Africa, seeing as it holds such a massive supply.
It’s never too late to get involved in the platinum mining industry. Several mines are currently on hold waiting for new investment. If you want to get involved, or need infrastructure and training for your current mining projects, Scribante Group is here to help. Contact us for more information on what we can do for you.