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A fuel cell feasibility study will accelerate mineral beneficiation and localisation of fuel cell manufacturing. It will also help to increase the demand for platinum during a downturn in the market. The government has pumped R15m into the study, which is expected to be completed within a year.
The Chamber of Mines building in Johannesburg will now be powered by a 100kW fuel cell that runs on platinum and natural gas - a showcase of the potential South Africa has to become a significant player in the manufacture of platinum power fuel cell technology.
Anglo American Platinum is to invest $4-million in Canadian company Ballard to support projects to commercialize platinum-based fuel cell products, in particular a prototype "home generator" with the potential to provide economical electric power to remote rural African households.
South African company IST Holdings and its US partner Plug Power, with the help of a US$3-million grant from the International Finance Corporation, will spend $14-million installing 400 fuel cells across South Africa over the next three years, as part of an initiative to bring reliable, cleaner power to developing countries.
South Africa's rich platinum reserves could make it a key player in a major future energy source - fuel cell technology. At least, that's the perspective of some. Others argue that fuel cells won't quite spell a platinum paradise, but could be used productively in a combination of next-generation energy solutions.