JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The decision of the giant Toyota Motor Corporation to co-fund the development of the market for platinum group metals (PGMs) has been applauded by Anglo American Platinum (Amplats).
Toyota, through the Mirai Creation Fund II in which Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation is a co-participant, this month became the fourth major organisation to promote a green economy by setting out to optimise the contribution of PGMs in the fight against climate change, the world’s most pressing current challenge.
The other three partners of AP Ventures are the giant Mitsubishi Corporation, which brings far-reaching industrial scope and a commitment to strategic activities, the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), South Africa’s biggest asset manager, and Amplats itself.
“We’re very pleased,” said Amplats CEO Chris Griffith in response to a question put at this week’s presentation of Amplats’ cash-rich financial results by Nedbank CIB Market Research mining analyst Arnold van Graan.
Last July, the PIC and Amplats each committed R1.3-billion to AP Ventures, the first venture capital fund of its kind to promote technologies dependent on the high-performance characteristics of PGMs.
Griffith described Toyota and Mitsubishi as “two seriously heavyweight companies”, which are now particularly focused on environmental protection in partnership with AP Ventures.
Led by Andrew Hinkly and Kevin Eggers, AP Ventures is spotlighting investment in the hydrogen value chain, fuel cell electric mobility and energy storage markets.
Van Graan, who led last week’s Nedbank Fuel Cell Conference in Cape Town, credited Amplats with spearheading PGM market development, which prompted Griffith to, in turn, acknowledge the “supportive and equivalent” contribution of Impala Platinum (Implats) to PGM market development and the clarity of Sibanye-Stillwater as to where they want to spend money on market development. Earlier this year, Sibanye-Stillwater acquired SFA Oxford, which assesses strategic investment opportunities in future technologies. It is seen as an enabler to fast-track PGM market opportunities and to access PGM-using intellectual properties.
“Market development continues to be a key strategic investment. We continue to think about this as an investment not a cost,” said Griffith.
Amplats has just launched the Lion Battery Technologies joint venture with TSX-listed Platinum Group Metals to accelerate the development of PGM-containing battery technology.
“We think that’s really exciting. Of course, it’s early stage. We think there’s potential to have platinum and palladium in battery technology. We’re doing some work with the University of Florida. We think that’s really positive and we’ll see how that unfolds over the next couple of years,” he added.
New products in jewellery, through Platinum Guild International (PGI), and three new strategic partnerships through the World Platinum Investment Council, have also been introduced.
Through PGI, the South African PGM-mining industry has been investing in platinum jewellery for more than 45 years, with current funders including Northam Platinum, Royal Bafokeng Platinum, Sibanye (Lonmin), Implats and Amplats.
The legal entity for the Platinum Valley Special Economic Zone in North West province will be set up in the next three months, South Africa’s new Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel promised during the State of the Nation Address (SoNA) debate in Parliament last month.
During the SoNA, South Africa’s tech-savvy President Cyril Ramaphosa committed South Africa to the exploration of the full potential of the new hydrogen age.
President Ramaphosa’s economic adviser Trudi Makhaya last week emphasised the importance to South Africa of nurturing new forms of economic activity brought about by the green economy. She told the Nedbank conference that a point of rupture had been reached that required a new model of economic growth. “The economic story that has brought us thus far just isn’t going to do it, principally because of the climate crisis,” she said.
Fuel cell development will be the main focus of Platinum Valley, which is targeting to do for fuel cells what Silicon Valley did for solid-state electronic development in the US.
If combined with the commercialisation of renewable energy – for which South Africa has superior sun and prime wind – fuel cells can guarantee carbon-free bus, truck, train, tram and ship transport, and eventually also penetrate the battery electric vehicles market for low-load, short-distance transportation.
Toyota supplies South Africa with its taxi fleet, which could, with the Japanese giant's help, form a local fuel cell starting point towards South Africa’s own decarbonisation aspirations owing to their relatively fixed travel routines for which hydrogen infrastructure could be fittingly spaced.
Fuel cells have already been deployed in several of South Africa’s offgrid rural clinics needing power and this country has had a hydrogen technology strategy for nearly a decade. A major advancement linked to the use of fuel cells in telecommunication and rural electrification is anticipated.
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