Where Does Platinum Come From?

Platinum, along with the rest of the platinum-group metals, is obtained commercially as a by-product from nickel and copper mining and processing. During electrorefining of copper, noble metals such as silver, gold and the platinum-group metals as well as selenium and tellurium settle to the bottom of the cell as “anode mud”, which forms the starting point for the extraction of the platinum-group metals.[48]

If pure platinum is found in placer deposits or other ores, it is isolated from them by various methods of subtracting impurities. Because platinum is significantly denser than many of its impurities, the lighter impurities can be removed by simply floating them away in a liquid. Platinum is paramagnetic, whereas nickel and iron are both ferromagnetic. These two impurities are thus removed by running an electromagnet over the mixture. Because platinum has a higher melting point than most other substances, many impurities can be burned or melted away without melting the platinum. Finally, platinum is resistant to hydrochloric and sulfuric acids, whereas other substances are readily attacked by them. Metal impurities can be removed by stirring the mixture in either of the two acids and recovering the remaining platinum.[49]

One suitable method for purification for the raw platinum, which contains platinum, gold, and the other platinum-group metals, is to process it with aqua regia, in which palladium, gold and platinum are dissolved, whereas osmium, iridium, ruthenium and rhodium stay unreacted. The gold is precipitated by the addition of iron(II) chloride and after filtering off the gold, the platinum is precipitated as ammonium chloroplatinate by the addition of ammonium chloride. Ammonium chloroplatinate can be converted to platinum by heating.[50] Unprecipitated hexachloroplatinate(IV) may be reduced with elemental zinc, and a similar method is suitable for small scale recovery of platinum from laboratory residues.[51]

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