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PGMs Now 'Critical' to US Security

Platinum and palladium added to list...

EARLIER this year, the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the science agency for the United States government's Department of the Interior, released an updated list of 50 mineral commodities deemed critical to the US economy and national security, reports the World Platinum Investment Council.

In the US, critical minerals are defined by the Energy Act of 2020 as those non-fuel minerals which have a supply chain that is vulnerable to disruption and which serve as an essential function in the manufacturing of a product, the absence of which would have significant consequences for the economic or national security of the US.

This year's list – which will be updated again in three years' time – features the platinum group metals (PGMs) platinum, palladium, iridium, rhodium and ruthenium as individual elements for the first time, reflecting the increasing importance of PGMs as raw materials in technologies that support the clean energy transition.

Platinum, in conjunction with iridium, is used as a catalyst in proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysers that use polymer electrolyte, one of the two leading electrolysis technologies available in the market. PEM electrolysers are used to make 'green' hydrogen, a carbon-free fuel, from renewable energy. Platinum and ruthenium are used as catalysts in hydrogen fuel cells to provide power in applications including zero-emissions fuel cell electric vehicles.

In Europe, the European Commission's Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials has been in existence since 2020. Its focus is on developing secure, resilient, diversified and sustainable supply chains that foster the transition towards a green and digital economy. The plan incorporates a list of 30 critical raw materials, designated as such based on economic importance and perceived supply risk, which include the same PGMs as those recently identified by the USGS, citing their use as chemical and automotive catalysts as well as their use in electronic applications and fuel cells.

In China, platinum is recognised as a metal of strategic importance for its use in PEM technologies. Along with lithium, nickel and cobalt, platinum is specifically mentioned in the China State Council's New Energy Vehicle Industrial Development Plan (2021-2035), which encourages Chinese companies to improve their capacity to secure long-term supplies of these rare and in-demand elements.

Formed by the world's 6 leading platinum mining companies, the World Platinum Investment Council aims to stimulate investor demand for physical platinum through industry data, actionable insights, and the development of targeted new products and channels. In 2017 it partnered with BullionVault to make securely-stored platinum available at low cost with instant liquidity on the world's No.1 online market for private investors trading gold and silver.

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