PLATINUM

  • Platinum
  • Mines Producing Platinum

Platinum in its natural state is impure as it is usually associated with nickel, copper, gold, iron or other such elements. It can also contain palladium, rhodium, osmium, iridium or other rare metals. Impurities such as these tend to lower the specific gravity of platinum by as much as 14 where in its pure form platinum has a specific gravity of 21.4. The most common impurity is traces of iron that often causes platinum to be attracted to magnetic fields.


Gem collectors prize platinum as being very valuable as a rare gem stone and as it is rarer than gold it is not readily available to general collectors but limited to high end mineral collectors only. As a precious metal in jewellery it is used as ring settings, necklaces and bracelets. As jewellery it is durable, beautiful and rare and therefore very highly regarded. Platinum crystals are cubic, usually with rounded corners and quite often rather distorted. They may also form penetration twins that often occur as water-worn nuggets containing small holes. Some samples may also tend to be flakey. Platinum, although opaque, can be found in many colours, the most usual being dark grey, steel grey, silver grey or tin white.


Platinum has many uses in industry, some of these are as follows:
- Catalytic converters in motor cars as an anti-pollution device
- Dental fillings and dentistry equipment
- Numerous laboratory equipment
- Electrical contacts
- Electrodes
- Thermometers


Platinum is highly valued in industry because of its excellent resistance to high temperature and corrosion as well as for its stable electrical properties. It is also the most ductile of all the pure metals such as copper, silver or gold, although gold is more malleable than platinum. Platinum does not oxidise at any temperature.


Pre-Columbian Americans used platinum to make artifacts of a white-gold alloy, although the first European recognition of the metal didn't appear until 1557 when it was described as a 'noble metal found between Darien and Mexico which no fire nor Spanish artifice has been able to liquefy.'


Platinum is obtained commercially as a by-product from the mining and processing of copper and nickel. When electro-refining copper, metals such as platinum, silver and gold settle to the bottom among what is termed 'anode mud.' It is from this substance that platinum is extracted.


Only a few hundred tonnes of platinum are produced throughout the world each year. In 2010, 245 tonnes of platinum was sold globally, 113 tonnes were used in the production of motor vehicle catalytic converters, 76 tonnes as jewellery and 35.5 tonnes for the production of electrodes, spark plugs, oxygen sensors, turbine engines and anti cancer drugs. In 2012 Australia produced 706 kilograms and this was all produced from nickel sulphide deposits in the Yilgarn Craton of Western
Australia. Platinum nugets have also been discovered in the Kennedy and Cunningham Counties in the Fifield District of New South Wales.


As platinum is a heavy metal it can lead to health issues when exposed to its salts. However, because of its resistance to corrosion, it is not regarded as being as toxic as other metals. Compounds containing platinum, such as cisplatin are used in chemotherapy in the fight against certain types of cancer.
 

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