Sunday, October 28, 2007

World Platinum Price Soars.

The cost of platinum has risen over $1,450 an once following worries over the supply of this rare metal as two mines in South Africa were closed because of recent fatal accidents. It is thought that there will be a market deficit of 100,000 ounces of platinum this year. The biggest producer of platinum in the world is Anglo Platinum, which closed its Paardekraal shaft in Rustenburg after a worker died in an accident, and the South African Northern Platinum Ltd. also closed its mine when a worker was killed by a rockfall.

The world market for platinum closed in 2006 with a small surplus of around 10,000 ounces after being in deficit for seven years, outstripping the world demand of 6.775 million ounces, or about 192 tonnes of it. About 42% of that is used to make jewelry and is almost exactly the same as goes into making catalytic convertors; the rest is used to make scientific apparatus. I have commented previously, that the introduction of PEM (proton exchange membrane) fuel cells to run cars fuelled by hydrogen is likely to be hampered by the limited amount of platinum that could be produced for this purpose. Even if all the platinum which currently goes into cleaning the exhaust emissions from cars that burn oil-fuels internal combustion engines, could be skimmed-off for the PEM sector, it would be just enough for:

(0.4 x 192 tonnes/year x 1000 kg/tonne x 1000 g/kg)/50g platinum/car = 1,536,000 cars/year.

Compared with the numbers of road vehicles there are altogether, which I believe is 700 million, this is quite a small figure. I suppose it is possible that more platinum may be found and maybe the world could do without its jewelry in the interests of "saving the planet", but a hydrogen economy based around precious metals looks to me of limited likelihood.

Gold prices have also soared to around $750 per ounce, which is the highest since 1980, when it hit $850. Tensions in the Middle East are partly blamed, especially the decision by Turkey to send its troops into northern Iraq to hunt-down Kurdish rebels, although the country's allies in the West and in Baghdad have urged them to refrain from invading Iraq. There is an issue of how much of many metals and minerals might be supplied in the future, along with oil, gas, uranium and eventually coal, and the prices of all of them will reflect how much can be brought onto the world markets, and indeed how much there is available at any prices.

Related Reading.
"Supply concerns propel platinum to record highs", By Atul Prakash.

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