Recycling PGMs necessary to meet demand

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HEAVY METAL Osmium is the heaviest of the platinum-group metals

9th September 2022

By: Sabrina Jardim

Creamer Media Writer


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Platinum-group metals (PGMs) are noble metals – they resist oxidation and corrosion – making them suitable for recycling, says precious metals refiner Gauteng Refinery manager Michele Beaumont.

“As ore depletion occurs, the recycling of these metals is important to fill spare capacity in the mine’s metallurgical facilities. “Mines continue to get deeper, grades continue to decline, and mining costs continue to increase.”

Recycled PGMs material can offset some of the mining costs while aiding the development of a circular economy, she adds.

The PGMs basket price is driven by demand, and recycling helps to reduce the risk of a supply deficit. Maintaining PGMs demand, in turn, minimises the threat of alternative technologies or products replacing PGMs in a specific market.

“There will be more cars on the road resulting in further congestion. Emission standards are becoming more strenuous and relevant,” she explains.

Gauteng Refinery, among a variety of other feedstocks, processes end-of-life autocatalysts.

Beaumont comments that the current PGMs demand is largely being driven by the hydrogen economy using fuel cells in light of stricter emissions control being adopted globally, including stricter measures in the European Emissions Standards.

Through the hybrid application of new and established technologies, she says Gauteng Refinery has the flexibility of process for niche materials from clients worldwide.

She adds that recycling PGMs and the associated chemistry is complex, requiring specialised dedicated equipment, with novel technologies being continuously developed for processing plants to maintain a competitive edge.

The autocatalyst market is open-ended with respect to supply for recycling.

Further, Beaumont says that unlocking the hydrogen value chain and applications positions Gauteng Refinery well in playing a role in serving the emissions imperative.

PGMs refining is a “low-margin, high-risk industry” requiring specialised skills, experience, innovation and technical excellence.

“Gauteng Refinery is a leading independent recycler and refiner, particularly of the other PGM elements, and continues to invest in plant and equipment.

“Gauteng Refinery continues to focus on value-added chemicals and products to bring in much-needed foreign revenue and create much-needed jobs,” concludes Beaumont.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor



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