Anglo American makes expensive bet on hydrogen fuel cell cars – by Barbara Lewis (Business Day – August 18, 2017)

London — Anglo American is placing a contrarian bet on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as it tries to squeeze more profit from its platinum reserves, but risks being left behind as rival miners look to cash in on battery-powered cars.

A push, particularly in Europe and China, for lower-emission transport, raises the prospect of weaker demand for platinum, whose biggest industrial use is in diesel vehicles. Other big miners are positioning themselves for the shift away from the combustion engine by betting on lithium and cobalt, both used in electric vehicle batteries.

Glencore signed a major deal last October to sell 20,000 tons of cobalt products, a hitherto niche material whose production it dominates, while Rio Tinto is sitting on a large deposit of lithium. As the world’s top supplier of platinum, Anglo American is left with little choice but to remain committed to the metal.

But it sees strength in what others may perceive as a weakness. “Platinum and palladium will long play a critical air quality role in the global vehicle fleet, including in heavy commercial vehicles, hybrids and the emerging hydrogen fuel cell electric technology,” CEO Mark Cutifani told Reuters.

The firm has modernised operations, aiming to mechanise at least 70% of its platinum mining to boost efficiency. Cutifani is relentlessly pursuing a target of 15% return on capital, up from 4% in the first half of this year.

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