Have you ever wondered which are the countries that produce the most rhodium in the world? Let’s find it out here, and also what rhodium is and what it is used for.
Rhodium (Rh) is a metal element occurring in only one isotope – the 103Rh isotope and usually found as an alloy of similar metals, or alone. Rhodium is a silver colored metal, but named after rose (rodon in Greek), because it was first obtained from chloride salts which remained after palladium extraction from platinum where it was reddish in color. Rhodium belongs to the platinum group of precious metals (or short PGM). The platinum metal group consists of six metal elements: rhodium, palladium, platinum, iridium, ruthenium and osmium. They are all close to each other in the periodic table of elements and are very similar in their characteristics. These metals are referred to as precious metals because they are very stable and resistant elements to corrosion and oxidation, and since they are durable and very resistant they are much valued. They are very rare elements in nature, rhodium being one of the rarest, which adds to its high value. Rhodium also has a high melting temperature, and is very hard and durable.
This group of metals often occurs naturally with some nickel and copper deposits as their byproducts, and are often produced in nickel or/and copper mines, where they are usually obtained from. The artificial way rhodium can be produced is from nuclear fuels, but this is even more expensive and unsafe way of getting it.
Rhodium is very hard to work with but nevertheless much used. At the first place, it is a great catalyst, which reduces the emission of harmful gases, so it is widely used in the car industry. So, greatest percentage (up to 89-90%) of annual consumption of rhodium is in car industry. Other uses of this metal are far less demanding and include glass industry, jewelry, optical instruments, and nuclear reactors.
About where this rare precious metal occurs and which are the countries that produce the most rhodium in the world, we’ve searched on several sources. Most information for the annual production comes from the US Geological Survey for Mineral Commodities. We’ve also gone through some of the Mineral Yearbooks, like the issues from 2008 and 2011. For some more general information which is not temporally specified (though trends and market demand can rapidly change each year), the information came from the Balance and GFMS Platinum Group Metals Survey 2016.
Great consumers have great needs. While plastic, for example, is more and more used in everyday life, take a look at 8 Countries that Export the Most Plastic in the World. On the other hand, demand and production of rhodium are not so steady. This precious metal is becoming so precious, that the price of rhodium grew by 32% in 2017 comparing to 2016, although the global production of rhodium was in decline lately and its price also decreased. That is, on the one hand, the consequence of recycling which now represents one-third of rhodium production. Take a look now which are the countries that produce the most rhodium in the world: