The mining glossary provides a reference
source for pgm mining terminology used on this site and
A trading glossary is available in
Terms appearing in italics are also
defined within the glossary.
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A - H | I - Q | R -
Adit: A passage driven into a mine from a
hill or mountainside.
Alluvial deposits: Material, typically
sands and gravels, transported by a river and deposited at points
on the river's flood plain. These deposits can contain
economically viable mineral resources. In the Kondyor and
Koryak areas of eastern Russia alluvial deposits are mined
for platinum group metals.
Bench: A ledge created in
an open pit, which forms the surface for
extraction. The size of the bench will reflect the strength
of the rock, stability of adjacent slopes, pit economics and the
Black Economic Empowerment (BEE): A South
African Government policy aimed at increasing the access that black
South Africans have to "productive assets whilst simultaneously
ensuring the productivity of those assets". BEE seeks "to
promote new opportunities for and increase the levels of
participation of black people in the ownership, management and
control of economic activities". South
African pgm mining companies have responded to
the policy through a range of joint ventures and asset sales to BEE
Quotes from the Black Economic Empowerment Commission Report,
Bushveld Igneous Complex: Formed about
2,000 million years ago, the Bushveld Igneous Complex (BIC) is a
well differentiated geological structure with
an areal extent of some 450km east-west by 300km
north-south. It has a series of distinct layers, three
of which are currently mined for platinum group
By-product: Material of some economic
value produced in a process which is focused on extracting another
material. For example palladium is produced as a by-product
of platinum mining in South Africa.
Concentrating: The process of
separating milled ore into two streams; one
greatly enriched in the valuable mineral (concentrate) and another
of waste material (tailings). Concentration is a
vital economic step in the production process because it reduces
the volume of material which must be transported to and processed
in a smelter and refinery.
inclined shaft used to transport workers,
materials and ore to and from the underground working area in a
Dense media separation (sink and float
process): A pre-concentration process used by
some pgm producers which separates relatively
light and heavy particles by immersion in a liquid of an
Disseminated: Term applied to ore
deposits consisting of fine grains of ore
mineral dispersed through the host rock.
Froth flotation: A method of
mineral concentration used
in pgm production which separates the
various minerals in the feed by utilising the differing surface
properties of the minerals. The separation is achieved by
passing air bubbles through the mineral pulp. By adjusting
the chemistry of the pulp by using various reagents,
valuable minerals can be made aerophilic (air-avid)
and gangue minerals aerophobic (water
avid). Separation occurs by the valuable minerals
adhering to the air-bubbles which form the froth floating on
the surface of the pulp.
Gangue: Material in
the ore of no economic value.
Grade: The mass of desired metal(s) in a
given mass of ore. Pgm-bearing
ores are typically extremely low-grade. Grades are normally
expressed as grams per tonne, equivalent to parts per
million. Mining companies commonly quote combined 4-element
grades, i.e. the combined mass of platinum, palladium, rhodium and
gold per unit of ore. Combined six element grades are also
quoted, which also include ruthenium and iridium.
Great Dyke: A pgm-bearing
igneous body situated in Zimbabwe. A sinuous (4-11km wide),
layered, mafic-ultramafic intrusion around 2,500 million years old
which runs for 550km across the country (NNE - SSW). The
Great Dyke consists of four geological complexes of which the
Hartley complex is by far the largest (approximately 90km in
length) and contains around 80% of
Zimbabwe's pgm resource.
The grade of the ore leaving
the mine and entering the processing plant. Also termed mill
head grade, which is the grade of ore as it enters
the milling process.
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I - Q
J-M Reef: A pgm-bearing
horizon in a lenticular igneous intrusion located in Montana,
USA. Formed approximately 2,700 million years ago, the J-M
Reef extends for 45 km along strike and approximately 1.6 km
downward and remains open at depth. The reef is worked at its
eastern end by Stillwater Mining Company, which has also developed
another mine, East Boulder, at the western end.
Joint venture: A contractual agreement
between two or more parties for the purpose of executing a business
undertaking. All parties agree to share in the profits and losses
of the enterprise.
Merensky reef: A thin
(0.3-3m) pgm-bearing horizon near the base of the
Merensky zone in the Bushveld Igneous Complex.
Chromite bands around 1cm thick mark the top and bottom of the reef
and are enriched with platinum relative to the
reef. Pgms are associated with nickel and
copper sulphides and these base metals are also recovered.
Nickel and copper concentrations are around 10 times higher than
those in the UG2 horizon in
Milling: The first stage of mineral processing.
Crushed ore pieces from the mine are further
mechanically reduced in size to maximise efficiency of
the concentration process. In general two
types of mills are used. Autogenous mills simply tumble the
ore to achieve the desired grains size, whilst ball mills use an
additional media, such as steel balls or rods, to aid milling.
Mining feasibility study: An assessment
of the economic viability of a potential mining project. The
study must consider all aspects of the project, including mine and
processing plant design, waste disposal, environmental management
and permitting. A feasibility study will only be
undertaken after an extensive series of desk studies, exploration
and trial mining and processing projects have been completed.
LHD (Load-Haul-Dump) vehicles: Vehicles
used in some underground pgm mines to transport
ore from the working areas to the main haulage system.
Open pit: A mine based on extraction from
a surface excavation, which remains open to the surface for the
life of the mine.
Ore: Rock from which metal or minerals can be
extracted at a financial profit.
Ore mineral: A mineral which contains a
metal or metals which can be extracted at a financial profit.
Platinum Group Elements/Platinum Group Metals
(PGE/PGM): The six metallic elements platinum, palladium,
rhodium, ruthenium, iridium and osmium.
Platreef: A pgm-bearing
horizon occurring at the base of the northern (Potgietersrus) limb
of the Bushveld Igneous Complex. The
Platreef is far thicker (up to 200m) than
the Merensky and UG2 horizons
and has higher base metal grades. The richest mineralisation
tends to be near the base of the intrusion and grades tend to be
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R - Z
Refining: see smelting.
SAMREC Code: The South African Mineral
Resources Committee's code sets a required minimum standard for
Public Reporting on exploration results, mineral resources, or
mineral reserves in South Africa, prepared for the purpose of (a)
informing investors or potential investors and their advisers or
(b) satisfying regulatory requirements.
Shaft: A vertical or inclined conduit
providing access from the surface to underground orebodies.
Smelting: Extracting metals from
the ore concentrate by pyrometallurgical
Stope: void created by
extracting ore underground.
Stoping: activity of
extracting ore underground.
Stripping Ratio: number of units of
unpayable material (waste rock or overburden) which must be removed
to expose one unit of ore in an open pit.
Tailings: fine grained remains of ore
once most of the valuable material has been removed in the
UG2 (Upper Group 2): A Chromitite layer
in the Bushveld Igneous Complex which
contains economically viable concentrations of pgm.
The UG2 lies 130-300m below
the Merensky reef in the intrusion and
is typically 0.6 -1.3m thick. The UG2 has
the highest concentration of sulphide minerals of all Chromitite
layers in the Bushveld.
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