In September 2008, I had first talked about South Africa trying to market platinum for fuel cells worldwide. You see, South Africa mines about 80-percent of the world’s supply of platinum and would like to continue selling this expensive metal long into the future.
But, it hasn’t been until recently that South Africa has actually started using hydrogen fuel cells themselves. And now they have taken another symbolic and practical step in this direction.
According to Mining Weekly, “Platinum miner Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) expects to put a fuel-cell powered mine locomotive through its paces in the first half of this year.
“The locomotive will initially be tested on surface at Amplats’ Dishaba mine, which is situated in the Limpopo province … The point of the demonstration will be to show that fuel-cell powered locomotives can provide superior efficiency and productivity and offer zero-emission underground transport.”
Amplats is the world’s largest producer of platinum, so it’s only fitting that they would be using a locomotive fitted with a platinum-bearing hydrogen fuel cell to mine, well, more platinum.
The only problem with this scenario is that South Africa is getting into the platinum fuel cell business a little late. I’ve talked about at length over the past 5 or so years about all of the research and development going into creating platinum-free fuel cells, since platinum is the most expensive material in fuel cells used in the transportation industry.
But, if no quality replacement can be found for platinum in fuel cells, then South Africa is in a unique position to capitalize on their abundant natural resource, create jobs and money and help create cleaner air while doing so.