Japan has vision for California-style ‘platinum valley’ in SA – by Helmo Preuss (Business Day Live – July 23, 2013)


JAPAN plans to encourage a “platinum valley” in South Africa similar to the US’s Silicon Valley, minister in the Japanese embassy in Pretoria Ken Okinawa told BDlive in an exclusive interview last week.

“What we want to do is encourage South Africa to establish a kind of platinum valley here similar to Silicon Valley in California. This facility would aim to find new uses for platinum, while also addressing issues such as job creation and beneficiation,” he said.

To promote this, a senior Japanese expert in fuel cells would shortly come to South Africa, he said.

Government-led projects have supported the commercialisation of fuel cells for many years in Asia, Europe and North America, and this has led to cost reduction, technological advancements and customer acceptance.

Yoshinori Tanaka of the national policy unit in Japan said in 2012 that the need for platinum group metals was likely to increase as more fuel cells that used platinum as a catalyst were installed in cars and homes.

“The aim is to have 1.4-million fuel cells in residences by 2020 from only 10,000 currently and then grow this to 5.3-million by 2030,” he said. “In addition, the government aims to help with the construction of facilities for fuel-cell vehicles so that they can be marketed from 2015.”

London-based metals consultancy Thomson Reuters GFMS said in May that the global platinum market was delicately balanced‚ having slipped into its first deficit in eight years in 2012 after widespread strikes across mines in South Africa.

Platinum supply from South Africa’s mining sector fell 10% or 620‚000 ounces because of the lengthy strikes in 2012‚ which affected nearly all platinum producers.

The Fuel Cell Today Industry Review 2012 said that 2011 was by far the most successful year to date in the history of fuel cells, with annual megawatts shipped exceeding 100 for the first time as commercialisation of the industry took hold.

Johnson Matthey said Japan was aiming to dominate the global fuel-cell electric-vehicle market with a new task force made up of members from the automotive and hydrogen refuelling industries along with representatives of government agencies.

Led by Japan’s former environment minister, Yuriko Koike, the task force will include members from Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Nippon Oil & Energy, and Kawasaki.

It will look at purchase subsidies and tax breaks to support the commercial roll-out of fuel-cell cars in the country and around the globe.

Honda Motor executives said recently that the Japanese car maker hoped to launch a reasonably priced fuel-cell car by 2020.

Toyota plans to show a hydrogen fuel-cell saloon at the Tokyo Motor Show in November that could go on sale in 2015.

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