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Platinum-group elements: so many excellent properties

July 25, 2014

The platinum-group elements (PGE) include platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, and osmium. These metals have similar physical and chemical properties and occur together in nature. The properties of PGE, such as high melting points, corrosion resistance, and catalytic qualities, make them indispensable to many industrial applications. PGE are strategic and critical materials for many nations because they are essential for important industrial applications but are mined in a limited number of places and have no adequate substitutes.

Exploration and mining companies have found approximately 104,000 metric tons of PGE (with minor gold) in mineral deposits around the world that could be developed. For PGE, almost all known production and resources are associated with three geologic features: the Bushveld Complex, a layered mafic-to-ultramafic intrusion in South Africa; the Great Dyke, a layered mafic-to-ultramafic intrusion in Zimbabwe; and sill-like intrusions associated with flood basalts in the Noril’sk-Talnakh area, Russia.

To help predict where PGE supplies might be located, USGS scientists study how and where PGE resources are concentrated in the Earth's crust and use that knowledge to assess the likelihood that undiscovered PGE deposits may exist. Techniques used for assessing mineral resources were developed by the USGS to support the stewardship of Federal lands and evaluate mineral resource availability in a global context. The USGS also compiles statistics and information on the worldwide supply, demand, and flow of PGE. These data are all used to inform U.S. national policymakers.