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.