JOHANNESBURG – South African miners face a conundrum: increasing palladium and rhodium output to take advantage of soaring prices risks depressing the already fragile market for sister metal platinum.
That’s because palladium and rhodium are mined as byproducts, with every extra ounce of the former typically coming with two to three additional ounces of platinum.
Stricter emissions standards have boosted palladium and rhodium consumption in autocatalysts for gasoline cars. By contrast, the backlash against diesel vehicles, where most platinum gets used, has seen the metal languish.
Consequently, some of the world’s biggest platinum miners, including Sibanye Gold and Impala Platinum Holdings, are loath to boost production, even as palladium’s eight-year supply deficit could widen in 2020.
“They can’t increase production because the main metal is platinum and they don’t want to make the price come down,” said Rene Hochreiter, an analyst at Noah Capital Markets.