Introducing the Platinum Group Metals (PGMs)
Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) are a group of precious metals that share similar characteristics and chemical properties. The group comprises platinum and palladium as well as the lesser known rhodium, iridium, ruthenium and osmium.
The Periodic Table. Source: Wikipedia
Where Are PGMs Found?
The answer is mostly underground. PGMs are primarily sourced from mining. South Africa tops the platinum-mining chartswith 120 tonnes output a year, while Russia tops the palladium charts at 82 tonnes.
Recycling, also known as urban mining in this context, also contributes significantly to the global PGM supply, at approximately 30%. The catalytic converter in your vehicle is an obvious target for recycling, as more than 50% of the world’s platinum and Palladium supply goes into the manufacturing of catalytic converters for both diesel and automobiles. Even when these vehicles reached the end of their useful life, the PMGs in the converter are still mostly intact due to their chemically-inert nature.
A scrap catalytic converter also contains more than 100 times PGM-concentration than naturally-occurring ores, and current refining technology allows recovery rates upwards of 90%. These two factors combined to make PGM recycling much more efficient than mining, not to mention lucrative too.
How Your Catalytic Converter is Recycled
The recycling process usually starts with catalytic converter collectors. They purchase, classify and consolidate converters from common sources such as auto repair shops, vehicle scrapyards and sometimes smaller collectors.
Collected scrap converters go through a process called de-canning, where the converter is cut open and the substrate within removed. PGMs are deposited on this substrate, which can be made either of metal or ceramic.
Metallic substrates are shipped directly to refineries for PGM-recovery, but ceramic substrates are first milled and mixed into a fine, homogenous powder mixture, also known as ash.
Professional collectors that run their own laboratory provide sampling and assaying as a value-added service before packing and shipping the ash to the appointed refinery for PGM extraction. By determining the materials’ PGM content, they provide a reference point for suppliers as well as for comparison against the refinery’s assay results. This ensures that all parties are fairly compensated for their converter scraps.
Finally, the extracted PMGs are eventually returned into the global supply chain sans the negative environmental impact of mining.
Doing Our Part for the Environment
At BR Metals, we believe that our work creates a positive impact on the environment by reducing the need for PGM-mining. As one of Asia’s largest collectors, we have successfully expanded our collection network to cover more than 22 countries over 4 continents, and have invested in state-of-the-art equipment to effectively process, sample and assay scrap converters.
Interested to play a part in the PGM-recycling scene? There’s still money to be made despite the less than promising outlook. If you are seriously considering about getting into the catalytic converter recycling business and need advice or assistance, feel free to reach out to us firstname.lastname@example.org.