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What is it used for?

Copper

Copper is a strategic, highly ductile semi-precious metal with high thermal and electrical conductivity and excellent corrosion resistance properties. One of the primary uses of copper is in electrical applications, where its excellent conductivity makes it ideal for wiring, electrical circuits, and motors. The metal’s malleability and ductility also contribute to its widespread use in various industries, including construction, plumbing, and telecommunications. Copper’s corrosion resistance adds to its durability, making it a reliable choice for long-lasting infrastructure.

Demand for copper has grown with the market moving from surplus to deficit, putting pressure on stocks and having the effect of increasing prices with analysts estimating a continuous rise in prices.

This pressure is expected to increase with a greener future and a low carbon global commitment. Copper plays a pivotal role in the development and implementation of sustainable technologies, making significant contributions to the global efforts towards a greener future.

Copper is a critical metal for the generation of electricity from sources like solar and wind which demand large amounts. For example, each 3-megawatt wind turbine can contain over 4 tonnes of copper, with further demand coming from the accompanying electrical infrastructure they require.

Beyond its role in green energy, copper is used in many different everyday items. From household wiring and plumbing to electronic devices and transportation infrastructure, copper’s versatility makes it an indispensable material in modern society.

Chrome

Chromite is a brown to black, iron – chromium oxide. Globally the world produces ~30Mt/yr of chromite, half of which is produced in South Africa (which hosts 75% of the world’s resources) with half again exported as a raw material to China to produce Ferrochrome which is the feedstock to produce stainless steel and other speciality alloys.

The primary application of ferrochrome lies in the manufacturing of stainless steel, where it imparts essential properties such as corrosion resistance, hardness, and durability. Stainless steel, a widely used material in construction, automotive, and various industrial applications, owes much of its success to the incorporation of ferrochrome. This alloy allows stainless steel to resist rust and corrosion, making it an ideal choice for environments where durability and hygiene are paramount, such as in kitchen appliances, cutlery, and architectural structures.

Beyond stainless steel production, ferrochrome also finds applications in the manufacturing of superalloys, which are crucial in aerospace and other high-temperature, high-stress applications. These alloys, incorporating ferrochrome, exhibit exceptional resistance to extreme conditions, making them indispensable for components in jet engines, gas turbines, and other advanced technologies.

Additionally, chrome’s corrosion resistance makes it a preferred material for the production of various household items, including faucets, kitchen appliances, and bathroom fixtures.

PGMs

Platinum Group Metals (platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium, osmium, and gold) are used in a very diverse range of applications and are highly valued materials.

There is significant demand for PGMs, principally the use of platinum, palladium and rhodium in autocatalysts which can convert over 90% of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and oxides of nitrogen from gasoline engines into less harmful carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water vapour. PGMs are also used in manufacturing and healthcare – including implants, stents, and hearing aids, as well as new uses in hydrogen fuel cells along with jewellery.

Platinum is a critical mineral for the energy transition, owing to its uses in hydrogen-based electrolysis and fuels cells. Hydrogen-related demand for platinum is forecast to grow substantially over the next decade and beyond. According to the World Platinum Investment Council, Platinum catalysts in the electrolysis and fuel cell markets will make up around 15% of total demand by 2030, and as much as 35% by 2040.

The automotive sector is responsible for some 80% of total palladium demand, and this is expected to stabilise as absolute vehicle sales are forecast to recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2025.

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