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Sibanye-Stillwater, Heraeus team up to save palladium

Precious metals producer Sibanye-Stillwater (JSE: SSW)(NYSE: SBSW) has teamed up with metals trader and recycling company Heraeus Precious Metals to explore new uses for platinum-group metals (PGM), particularly palladium, in the hydrogen market. 

The partners aim to develop alternative markets for battered-metal, which prices fell more than 40% last year due mainly to weak demand from China. The rout has rolled onto 2024, with the metal price falling below platinum’s last week for the first time since 2018.

The joint venture, which will be equally funded by both parties, says that palladium demand has been dominated by auto catalysts for the past few decades, is time to find new applications for the metal.

“Over the longer term, demand for palladium in the automotive sector is expected to decrease, creating an opportunity to consider new applications for the metal (…) Palladium has a very high selectivity for hydrogen and thus can be used in a broad range of applications,” they said in the statement.

Palladium is mainly used by the auto industry, which makes up four-fifths of its demand. Consumption of the metal, however, dropped by almost 40% in 2023 as carmakers switched to cheaper platinum for the devices that reduce harmful emissions and as more drivers opted for EVs.

Sibanye and Heraeus expect to ultimately ensure a “sustainable PGM supply basket”, which should include palladium, platinum and critical raw materials, such as iridium, ruthenium and rhodium

“We expect hybrids to become the dominant engine type underpinning demand for palladium in the medium term,” Sibanye-Stillwater chief executive, Neal Froneman,  said in the statement. “Longer term and in response to changing demands, the PGM industry must innovate and stabilize the platinum group metals market,” he said.

Palladium and platinum prices decline has driven producers in South Africa, including Sibanye-Stillwater to apply severe cost-cutting measures. 

The company is even axing jobs at its mines in the United States, with about 7,000 workers expected to be affected.

Fellow miner Impala Platinum Holdings has offered voluntary job cuts, including at its deep-level Rustenburg complex. Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) has also held talks with the government about potential job cuts.

Source: MINING.COM – Read More