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Where is platinum found?

Most platinum is found just a few countries, of which South Africa is the most prolific, with Russia in second a large way behind.

Archaeologists believe platinum was first found and used by the ancient pre-Columbian Indians of South America for producing danglers, face studs, nose ornaments, figurines and miniature masks. It was not until 1735 that it became known to western scientists.

This precious metal, with a melting point of 1,768 °C, is one of the rarest elements in the Earth's crust. It has many industrial uses but production is extremely low. In 2017, for example, under 200 tonnes were produced. As a result it is highly valuable.

Platinum mining

Most platinum mining takes place in South Africa, with the Southern Hemisphere nation responsible for an incredible 80% of the world's platinum production. The Bushveld region accounts for the majority of South Africa's output.

Other large platinum mines are in the Chocó Department of Colombia, the Ural Mountains in Russia and Ontario in Canada. Small amounts are mined in the Absaroka Range in Montana, United States also. The latest figures available as of 2024 cover platinum production in 2021, but continue to show the dominance of South Africa.

Top five platinum producing countries

In Alaska, the town of Platinum was even named after the rare element when the ore was discovered there in the 1930s. During the Second World War it became a vital source of platinum for the Allied war effort and was heavily fortified to defend the site.

Away from this planet it is believed that large quantities of platinum exists in outer space, on the moon and in meteorites, though we are still at least a long way off even the most rudimentary space mining.

Where can you find platinum?

Geologically the platinum is generally found deep underground, mostly in nuggets or grains and is usually alloyed with other metals, such as gold, nickel and copper ores or mineral sperrylite. It is rare to find platinum on its own.

The rare metals of platinum, palladium, osmium, and rhodium are jointly referred to as the platinum group. They are also commonly found in the same geological deposits.

Earlier mining was done using the narrow reef method. That is basically blasting holes loaded with explosives. Today, four more sophisticated methods are more commonly used. They are underground mining, open pit mining, sift mining from placers deposits or surface deposits and in-situ mining, which involves drilling and pumping.

Platinum mining in South Africa

Chrome and Platinum miners in North Eastern part of South Africa drilling holes for rock blasting.

Once mined, the valuable platinum and other metals in the platinum-group, go through a difficult extraction process. Because of the similarity of metals in the group, this is far more complex than is used for other precious metals. This further adds to the high price of the metals.

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