Friedland talks up platinum, the creation of a ‘Platinum Valley’ in Limpopo – by Henry Lazenby (MiningWeekly.com – October 11, 2013)

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TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – Outpsoken financier and mining guru Robert Friedland is poised to make history in South Africa, as he envisions the creation of a ‘Platinum Valley’ in the platinum-rich Limpopo province that would be synonymous to hydrogen fuel cell manufacturing, as California’s Silicon Valley is to technology.

Addressing the Canada-Southern Africa Chamber of Business on Thursday evening, Friedland said the rise of megacities around the globe would drive metals demand up, not only for growing infrastructure, but also in achieving cleaner air, especially within the automobile industry.

Friedland, who also is the executive chairperson of Africa-focused project developer Ivanhoe Mines, formerly known as Ivanplats, said the rise of the hydrogen fuel cell-powered car is about to change the global platinum landscape forever.

He said he had it on good authority that Japan-based automaker Toyota will launch the world’s first commercially available hydrogen fuel cell-powered cars in November, which, according to him, would be a game changer for South Africa.

Friedland pointed to the intensifying global trend of urbanisation as being the critical driver behind the impending switch to hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles, adding that South Africa has an unprecedented opportunity to capitalise on beneficiating the platinum it produces, to serve the new markets.

“With Japan being on board, we stand on the verge of something serious. This constitutes a new and fundamental use for platinum, which bodes incredibly well for South Africa, owing to it supplying about 79% of the world’s platinum,” he said.

A stack of fuel cells for one automobile in general contains about 30 g of platinum, about eight to ten times the amount currently used in catalytic converters on conventional internal combustion-powered automobiles.

Countries around the globe, especially in the East, were also increasingly keen to tighten legislation to remove sulphur from fuel, opening up the auto market to increasingly use catalytic converters, which rely on platinum-group metals to clean emissions.

Other technologies, such as the escalating implementation of superfast magnetic-levitation trains, especially in Japan, would also need significant quantities of the white metal.

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