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:
Finland plays an important role in the world’s (and especially Europe’s) mining industry. There are over 40 active mines in Finland, and also several big deposits of the platinum group of metals. The most potential areas for extracting those minerals are northern parts of the country, which have recently developed a network of mining activities. Apart from those, Finland’s production of the platinum group of metals has been in a slight decrease since 2014.
Botswana is a country rich in precious ores and elements. Its most important mining branch is diamond production, and represents the 26% of diamond production in the World. Apart from diamond, Botswana produces copper, gold nickel, salt, silver and platinum group of metals. The production of the platinum group of metals in Botswana is however rapidly decreasing.
Colombia was one of the leading countries in rhodium production at the beginning of the 20th century, just behind Russia at the first place, and in the second half of the 20th century it has moved several places behind. Today’s production of rhodium in Colombia still on the high level, and puts it at the world’s top countries in rhodium production. By the results of United States Geological Survey of 2013, Colombia was on the 6th place in platinum precious metals production for the year 2012. The main mine for the platinum group of metals production is the Choco mine.
5. United States
Platinum group metals are mostly being exploited in mines of south-central Montana in a geological formation Stillwater igneous complex, and also on other places as byproducts of copper mining. Although being among countries that produce the most rhodium, the U.S. cannot fulfill its own needs, and therefore it is one of the biggest importers of this precious metal. We’re halfway through our list of countries that produce the most rhodium in the world, and if you are ready for the other half, click next!
Most of Canada’s platinum group metals come as byproduct of nickel mining. The largest amount of platinum mining is Sudbury basin in Central Ontario and Lac des Iles in Western Ontario, from nickel-copper ores as byproducts.
The richest region in the platinum group of metals of Zimbabwe is the 550 km long Great Dyke. It represents 85% of platinum group metals resources in Zimbabwe, and thickness and metallurgical recoveries are higher than those in South Africa, as you will later see.
The majority of rhodium mined in Russia comes from the region around the Ural Mountains and the easternmost parts of Russia, like the Kondyor mine, which is the largest alluvial deposit of platinum group of metals in the world. The more known Russian deposit is the Norilsk which is the largest nickel deposit in the world followed by accompanying elements like copper and platinum group metals.
1. South Africa
What puts South Africa at the first place of countries that produce the most rhodium in the world is the fact that 80% of rhodium comes from here. The biggest area of extraction of rhodium in South Africa is Bushveld igneous complex, a huge geological complex considered to hold the biggest reserves of platinum metals in the world.