Global platinum group element resources, reserves and mining - A critical assessment

Sci Total Environ. 2018 May 1:622-623:614-625. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.11.350. Epub 2017 Dec 13.


The platinum group elements (PGEs) are used in many technologies and products in modern society, especially auto-catalysts, chemical process catalysts and specialty alloys, yet supply is dominated by South Africa. This leads PGEs to be assessed as 'critical metals', signalling concern about the likelihood and consequences of social, environmental and economic impacts from disruptions to supply. In order to better understand the global PGE situation, this paper presents a comprehensive global assessment of PGE reserves and resources and the key mining trends which can affect supply. The data shows that global PGE resources have increased from 90,733t PGEs in 2010 to 105,682t PGEs in 2015, a 16.4% increase - despite global production of 2243t PGEs over this period. This suggests that the key issues facing the PGE sector are not geological or resource depletion, but clearly social, economic and environmental in nature - as highlighted by recent social issues in South Africa and volatile global economic conditions. Concerns over PGE supply reliability and the implications of any supply disruption will therefore continue to see the PGEs labelled as critical metals - but certainly not due to resource depletion.

Keywords: Criticality assessment; Mineral resources; Ore reserves; Platinum group elements; Sustainable mining.