Crippling mining strikes in South Africa. Political sanctions in Russia. And major mine collapses in Zimbabwe.
All of these recent events have made one thing very clear: the world needs new sources of platinum.
Together, the above three nations account for over 90% of global platinum output. And with all of them facing major headwinds to production and exports, the sector is looking for answers in different places.
Last week we got news about one such possible destination. Namely, an unexpected corner of the world: New Zealand.
The country's ministry of energy and resources awarded five platinum exploration blocks as part of its New Zealand Platinum Tender 2013. With all of the licenses going to Canadian-listed Coronado Resources (a firm owned 49% by New Zealand oil and gas developer Tag Oil).
Coronado's new permits cover two areas of New Zealand's South Island. Including 355 square kilometers at the north end of the island, near Murchison--and 168 square kilometers at the island's southern end, near the town of Invercargill.
Intriguingly, these areas have been past produces of platinum. Albeit at a small-scale, through alluvial mining operations that ran during the late 19th century through to the early 20th century.
The source of this alluvial platinum has never been identified. But there are mapped ultramafic complexes known across the South Island--of the type that host major platinum deposits like South Africa's Bushveld deposit.
The newly-awarded permits will now allow Coronado up to five years to explore for such a hard-rock platinum source. With government officials noting the company is expected to spend $3 million over the first three years. Potentially rising to $7.5 million during the last two years of the contract.
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This represents a limited success for the government, given it had also been hoping to license three additional land packages totalling nearly 3,000 square kilometers. Those blocks however, drew little interest from bidders--leaving Coronado as the sole awardee in the bid round.
Nonetheless, this is one of the freshest and most interesting targets going in platinum today. It will likely be some time before we get substantial exploration news here--but certainly a spot to keep on eye on as things get tighter in the world's platinum production centers.
Here's to new ideas for new times,