New Year REPORTS OF Japanese scientists achieving a synthetic palladium breakthrough and of Chinese researchers developing a technology capable of allowing the country’s uranium resources to last 3 000 years have both been met with scepticism.
Read on page 12 of this edition of Mining Weekly of Japanese researchers at Kyoto University saying that they have created a new palladiumlike alloy by fusing ultramicroscopic spray particles of rhodium and silver. On page 13, analysts are not attaching a lot of credence to the uranium-reprocessing sea change claim, described as Chinese “spin”.
On the Japanese palladium claim, Johnson Matthey GM for market research Peter Duncan tells Mining Weekly that Johnson Matthey’s research centre has seen the Japanese patent application, which has been filed only in Japan and only in Japanese, indicating the creation of nanoparticles not normally achievable using traditional melting techniques.
But both Impala Platinum and Anglo Platinum point to the absurdity of relying on rhodium to produce palladium, given that there is far more palladium than rhodium on tap. “Without wishing in any way to dismiss the work, it is very common for Japanese academics to patent anything vaguely new, regardless of its potential in the commercial world,” Duncan adds.
The real aim of the Japanese in all this may be to exploit the method used in the palladium experiment to develop synthetic rare earths, which are currently in great demand and short supply following an export cutback by China.
On China’s uranium-reprocessing announcement, made amid a flurry of trumpets in the State-sponsored China Daily, UxC senior-vice president Mike Smith tells Mining Weekly that “there was no breakthrough, and there will be zero impact on Chinese demand for uranium”.
Dundee Securities analyst David Talbot is equally unconvinced, pointing out that the spot price of uranium actually rose after the announcement, suggesting that “recent uranium buyers don’t believe the Chinese reprocessing hype either”.
The Chinese have reportedly been in negotiations with French nuclear company Areva regarding technology transfer, and there is speculation that publicity was given to the alleged technological “breakthrough” in order to put pressure on Areva to do a deal more favourable to the Chinese.