Canada - nickel producers
Most of the platinum group metals produced in Canada are by-products of nickel mining. The Sudbury Basin in central Ontario has the largest number of pgm-producing mines. PGM are also extracted from the Raglan nickel mine in northern Quebec and from a nickel complex in Manitoba. In all of these orebodies, palladium is the predominant platinum group metal.
The Sudbury Basin was discovered in 1883 during the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway and by 1886 copper mining had begun. Nickel production followed several years later. Commercial production of pgm began around 1908 when International Nickel Company (later Inco and now Vale), the largest mining company in the Basin, opened a refinery in the United Kingdom to refine the Sudbury ores. Falconbridge, the other major producer in Ontario, produces pgm at its refinery in Norway. Both companies were the subject of acquisitions in 2006, with Vale now owned by the Brazilian base metals producer Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD) and Falconbridge by the Swiss company Xstrata.
Canada - Lac des Iles
The only existing primary source of pgm in Canada, the Lac des Iles mine owned by North American Palladium Ltd, is located near Thunder Bay in western Ontario. Commercial production of pgm began in 1993 from the deposit known as the Roby zone, which until recently was exploited exclusively via open pit mining. In 2005, an underground section was developed to exploit a deeper, higher grade section of the deposit. Ore from the mine is processed to a concentrate rich in palladium, while also containing small amounts of platinum and base metals.
USA - Stillwater
Primary production of pgm in the USA is confined to the Stillwater and East Boulder mines, located west of Nye, Montana. The metals are extracted from the J-M Reef, which contains very high grades Â- around 20 g per tonne. Palladium accounts for about three-quarters of the pgm extracted, with the remainder largely platinum. The Stillwater Mining Company (SMC) began mining the J-M Reef here in 1987. The concentrated ore is processed at SMC's smelter in Columbus, Montana and the pgm are toll-refined in the USA and Europe.