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South Africa Marks 100 Years of PGM Dominance

Commemorating a Century of Platinum Excellence and Global Leadership

by Oluwatosin Alabi

In a grand celebration of a century marked by innovation, discovery, and economic transformation, the South African Diamond and Precious Metals Regulator (SADPMR) is poised to commemorate the 100th anniversary of a pivotal moment in South Africa’s mining history—the discovery of Platinum Group Metals (PGM) deposits by Dr. Hans Merensky in 1924. This historic event, which significantly shaped the global precious metals market, will be honored at the South Africa Platinum Centenary Commemoration in Cape Town on February 4, 2024, in collaboration with Metal Concentrators as part of the MineShift event.

The commemoration, strategically scheduled a day before the thirtieth Investing in African Mining Indaba, aims to highlight South Africa’s indelible mark on the platinum industry. With the theme “South Africa: Land of Platinum 100 Years,” the event seeks to reinforce the nation’s identity as the epicenter of platinum mining. The SADPMR’s initiative not only celebrates a century of platinum pre-eminence but also aims to bolster national pride and awareness of the country’s role in supplying over 70% of the world’s output of platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, and iridium.

South Africa’s prominence in the platinum sector is underpinned by its possession of over 80% of the world’s known PGM reserves, primarily located in the Bushveld Igneous Complex (BIC)—a region of more than two billion years of geological history and immense mineral wealth. This centenary event will spotlight the BIC’s global significance and its contribution to South Africa’s economic and industrial development.

To commemorate this milestone, the SADPMR has organized a series of activities designed to engage the community and foster a deeper appreciation for the country’s platinum heritage. Among these is the launch of several initiatives targeting South African schools and tertiary institutions, including art, logo design, and storytelling or writing competitions set for the second half of the year. These endeavors aim to inspire creativity and a sense of pride among the youth, celebrating the country’s rich platinum legacy.

Additionally, the event will feature a craft showcase presenting platinum crafts from the regulator’s Enterprise Development Programme. Highlighting the festivities, a special commemorative platinum coin, minted by a small- to medium-sized enterprise, will be unveiled to honor the centenary of platinum mining. Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe is slated to receive one of these coins, symbolizing a century of platinum heritage and mining excellence in South Africa.

Another unique aspect of the celebration includes the presentation of a rock sample from the Merensky reef, sponsored by Impala Platinum, to dignitaries. This sample, encased with a story card detailing its history and significance, serves as a tangible link to the discovery that catalyzed South Africa’s dominance in the platinum sector.

The South Africa Platinum Centenary Commemoration not only pays homage to Dr. Hans Merensky’s groundbreaking discovery but also serves as a testament to the enduring impact of the platinum industry on the nation’s economy and global standing. As South Africa continues to lead in PGM production, the event underscores the importance of innovation, exploration, and sustainable development in securing the future of the mining sector. This centennial celebration invites reflection on the past achievements and challenges of the platinum industry, while also looking forward to the opportunities and advancements that lie ahead.

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