Despite a bearish short-term view of platinum, long-term outlook remains strong

Implats corporate affairs executive Emma Townshend

Implats corporate affairs executive Emma Townshend

30th March 2023

By: Darren Parker

Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online


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Although the outlook for the platinum market is "underwhelming" in the short to medium term, Impala Platinum (Implats) corporate affairs executive Emma Townshend has said the platinum group metals (PGMs) miner believes the long-term outlook is promising. The company, therefore, remains committed to its platinum investments.

“We see the market tightening . . . but the longer-term fundamentals for us are supportive of our decision and our commitment to invest in our PGMs assets and in our processing assets," she noted during a panel discussion at the 2023 PGMs Day hosted by Resources For Africa, in Johannesburg, earlier this week.

Townshend added that the company was slightly less bearish with regard to palladium.

“We don't see a demand cliff [for] palladium. We probably are more constructive on palladium and rhodium in the medium term, with die-hard platinum goals for the medium to longer term,” she said.

Precious metals company Heraeus South Africa commercial GM Kristi Kuhn, meanwhile, noted that iridium and ruthenium had largely been ignored historically, owing to them being labelled as minor metals.

She said that, a decade ago, these metals were regarded as almost insignificant – a mere byproduct of PGMs mining.

“Quantity wise that hasn't changed. So the annual production output from mining for ruthenium is about 20 t to 30 t, which is tiny compared to platinum and palladium. Rubidium is even less. But they're very interesting metals to watch, especially now, because they're so closely linked to green energy. They're the metals of the future,” Kuhn said.

She said the markets for both iridium and ruthenium were well balanced, with just enough supply to meet demand.

“There are tiny surpluses with little to no above-ground stocks. This is significant because the requirements of the hydrogen economy still need to be added on top. The question is where's the metal going to come from?” Kuhn said.

She pointed out that, in 2010, the revenue of the South African PGMs basket was largely dependent on platinum, which contributed 66%, followed by palladium at 14%, rhodium at 15%, ruthenium at 2% and iridium at 1%.

However, as of today, there have been significant changes in the revenue composition, with platinum contributing 28%, palladium 25%, rhodium 35%, iridium 7% and ruthenium 3%.

Townshend added that it was evident that a lot had changed since 2010.

Kuhn said it was very challenging to replace a technology based on iridium because there were no metals that could function the same way. Ruthenium, on the other hand, she said, had excellent catalytic activity and could potentially be superior to iridium in this regard, but she warned that it lacked corrosion resistance.

Kuhn added that the world should continue to closely monitor the use of iridium, a scrutiny that is being reflected in its pricing, not only in terms of its price level but also its price sensitivity, which requires careful management.

By contrast, she said ruthenium was generally less price-sensitive and more stable and that, despite increasing demand, she did not foresee a significant increase in mining output of this metal.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online



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