Platinum Group Metals in Canada: Everything You Need to Know
Did you know that Canada is home to the fifth-largest reserves of platinum group metals (PGMs) in the world?! With just one dedicated PGM operation in Western Ontario, a majority of Canada's extracted platinum group metals are by-products of nickel mining.
Platinum group metals include six metallic elements:
All PGMs have similar chemical and physical properties and are generally found in the same mineral deposits and reserves.
PGMs were first discovered embedded within nickel-copper deposits in Western Ontario back in 1888. Following the discovery, Canada became a major global supplier of PGMs from the end of the First World War to the 1950s.
Today, Canada's wealth of PGMs means we have a grand opportunity to regain our position as a top global supplier while producing these metals under one of the most sustainable mining regulatory regimes on the planet.
To paint a clearer picture of platinum group metals in Canada, we've collected several facts for you below.
12 Canadian PGM Mining Facts
#1 - Canada is the third-largest producer of mined PGMs, accounting for 7.1 per cent of global production in 2019.
#2 - Canada has the fifth-largest reserves of PGM's in the world.
#3 - Canadian mines exported nearly 1 million troy ounces of PGMs in 2019.
#4 - Canada traded PGMS and PGM-related products with 73 countries in 2019.
#5 - 75 per cent of Canada's PGM production occurred in Ontario in 2019.
#6 - As of 2019, Canada's PGM mine production by element was:
- Palladium: 69 per cent
- Platinum: 26 per cent
- Ruthenium: 2 per cent
- Rhodium: 2 per cent
- Iridium: 1 per cent
#7 - Canada currently has just one dedicated PGM mine located in Western Ontario near Thunder Bay, but nickel mines in other provinces such as Quebec and Manitoba produce PGMs (mostly palladium) as a by-product.
#8 - In Canada, most PGMs are produced as by-products through the process of nickel mining.
#9 - Platinum deposits are very rare. This can be seen through production as for every ten gold mines, only one platinum mine exists.
#10 - Platinum was discovered for the first time in Canada in nickel-copper back in 1888.
#11 - Colombia was the only known source of platinum until 1820.
#12 - The United States accounted for over 76 per cent of Canada's exports of PGMs in 2019.
Where are PGM's Found in Canada?
Canada has one PGM mine located in western Ontario near Thunder Bay, but as mentioned before, most of these metals are recovered as co-products in nickel mining operations. For example, large amounts of PGMs (mostly palladium) are extracted from the Raglan nickel mine in northern Quebec and also in Manitoba.
Today, 75 per cent of PGM production occurs in Ontario, with the remainder coming from Quebec, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.
In 2019, Canadian mines shipped nearly 1 million troy ounces of PGMs. Troy ounces require a rigorous process to manufacture. Refining platinum ore, for example can take anywhere from two to six months to process, and requires up to 11 tonnes of ore to produce a single troy ounce of platinum.
Uses of Platinum Group Metals
PGMs are used in various technological applications in everyday life. Catalytic converters, for example, account for 59 per cent of use of these rare metals used globally. In addition, PGMs help to reduce emissions pollution from vehicles and contribute to healthier air, especially in major urban centres.
Other uses of PGMs include:
- Jewellery (11 per cent)
- Chemical manufacturing (8 per cent)
- Electrical product manufacturing (7 per cent)
- Investment purposes (5 per cent)
- Medical equipment (3 per cent)
- Glass manufacturing (2 per cent)
- Petroleum refining (1 per cent)
- Other uses (5 per cent)
Aside from equipment, PGMs can also be used for other medical uses. As of 2018, approximately 50 per cent of cancer therapy patients used drugs containing platinum.
History of PGMs in Canada
Platinum was first discovered within nickel-copper ores in Ontario in 1888. The Sudbury Basin has the largest number of PGM-producing mines and was discovered in 1883 during the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway. By 1886, copper mining had begun along with nickel production to follow several years later.
The formal production of PGMs in Canada began around 1908 when the International Nickel Company opened a refinery in the United Kingdom to specifically exploit Canadian ores.
Come 2021, and Canada is one of the largest producers and reserve holders of PGMs. With the third-largest global reserves, Canada has an incredible opportunity to continue developing these resources and be a global supplier of choice.
Sustainable PGM Mining in Canada
Whether it be PGMs, gold, potash or any of the other minerals and metals found across our country, Canada's world-class leadership in sustainable mining initiatives should make us a global supplier of choice for all of the above.
Canadian mining companies are rightfully acknowledged as world leaders in sustainability and safety practices by operating under the Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) initiative. Established by the Mining Association of Canada in 2004, the TSM's main objective is to enable mining companies to meet societal needs for minerals, metals and energy products in the most socially, environmentally, and economically responsible way possible.
Today, several other nations have adopted TSM standards as part of sustainability efforts in a world that's increasingly focussed on environmental outcomes. Some of those nations include Argentina, Botswana, Brazil, Norway, Finland, Australia and Spain.
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Mining in Canada is critical to our economic prosperity and supports more than 700,000 jobs across the country. With our global leadership on Environmental, Social and Governance metrics, we must continue to cement ourselves as a global mining leader and ensure the industry continues to develop itself for the benefit of Canadians and the global environment.
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