News today that workers at the Implats Rustenburg platinum mine in South Africa are back on the job.
The mine–one of the most important platinum suppliers in the world–had been hit by a one-day illegal strike by mine workers. A story that’s becoming alarmingly common in South Africa.
Many investors are now coming to accept that South African platinum supply is in jeopardy because of labor, power and social issues in the country. And that’s a big loss to face down, given that South Africa produces 70% of the world’s platinum.
It’s also a nearly-unparalleled opportunity. Platinum projects outside of South Africa are going to become prize possessions.
The challenge is, there aren’t many. Russia and Zimbabwe are the other established producers. Neither particularly inviting for setting up new projects.
That leaves investors to look for new platinum frontiers.
Long-time readers know I like Colombia. It’s where platinum was originally discovered, and it’s still one of the only spots in the western hemisphere that producers primary PGEs in any quantity.
But there may be potential beyond that in South America. Specifically, in Brazil.
One of the few potential new platinum producers coming on line soon is the Cerro Pelada mine in Pará state. And although it’s not talked about much, there are ample signs of platinum group elements elsewhere in the country.
The Bacuri intrusive complex in Amapá has been noted to host PGMs. Ditto ultramafic bodies in Minas Gerais, such as the O’Toole deposit.
Brazil even hosts known layered ultramafic complexes like the Niquelandia intrusive. Similar geology to the “reefs” that host major mineralization in South Africa.
There are even reports of significant PGEs associated with Brazilian iron-vanadium deposits. Suggesting this is a terrain that was soaked with the right kind of fluids to create platinum and palladium deposits.
Some geological heavy hitters like David Groves of the U Western Australia’s Centre for Exploration Targeting have even suggested that Brazil may host unique platinum deposits. More similar to gold ores, where PGE metals are carried by hydrothermal fluids rather than within magmas, as is the case at almost all of the world’s known deposits.
PGE mineralization discovered in Brazil to date has generally been lower grade, up to a few grams per tonne. But that could simply be due to a lack of systematic exploration. After all, it’s only recently that junior exploration companies have been going to Brazil in significant numbers.
Surveying the tight (and ever-tightening) platinum market, this appears to be a very good place to have a hard look at. I’ll be doing so the next several weeks.
Here’s to new sources of supply,