Japan is the world’s highest per-capita consumer of platinum jewelry.

While the precious metal accounts for over half of all jewelry sold in Japan, the country is also a major innovator in industrial applications for platinum and other members of the platinum group metals (PGM) family.

The 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics is less than one year away and Japan aims to deliver the most environmentally friendly games the world has ever seen. Athletes and spectators will be transported to and from venues by platinum-based hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). Japanese authorities believe FCEVs will be an important automotive innovation in the future.

“These particular metals have unique, elemental properties which enable them to be utilized across a range of industries,” said Paul Dunne, chief executive officer of Northam Platinum Ltd. “In the automotive industry, platinum-based metals increase the speed of chemical reactions in FCEVs, making them more efficient.”

Hydrogen and oxygen react and combine using a proton exchange membrane coated with a platinum catalyst to generate electricity in a platinum-based hydrogen fuel cell (heat and water are the only byproducts).

“PGMs are ‘green’ metals that are playing an increasingly important role in innovative environmental technologies,” Dunne said. “While in its infancy, this technology is expected to be more widely used in the future in FCEVs and hydrogen-fueled cars. Platinum is an essential metal for the future.”

An independent, mid-tier and integrated PGM producer, Northam Platinum has two primary operating assets; the Zondereinde and Booysendal mines in the South African Bushveld Complex.

“We have enjoyed a partnership with Mitsubishi Corporation RtM Japan, including Mitsubishi Corporation period, for over 20 years and they are one of our largest and most important customers and partners. It is a long-standing partnership rooted in trust,” Dunne said.

“A substantial portion of our production is purchased by Mitsubishi Corporation RtM Japan and we recently signed a long-term partnership agreement. Hydrogen is an elegant solution, which has the potential to help Japan meet its energy requirements. PGMs are important in the country’s energy drive and with our high-quality, reliable PGM sources we will play our part. We look forward to developing our assets, driving business growth and strengthening our partnerships in Japan.”