Africa is a literal treasure trove when it comes to our natural resources, and that includes our metal and mineral reserves. The continent holds some of the largest deposits of the most expensive precious metals in the world/

You may be surprised to find that neither gold nor platinum are number one on the list of the priciest metals.

Just what makes a metal more expensive and valuable than another, besides perhaps its rarity? We’re about to find out.

Take a look at the most valuable precious metals on the commodity markets found in African reserves, in order of most to least pricey, and why they’re so expensive.

Note that prices are listed in USD and per ounce (oz).

Most expensive precious metals mined in Africa and why they’re so valuable

1. Rhodium

Current spot value per oz: $13,900

Producing countries: It is mined mainly in South Africa (which produces over 85%), but also mined in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Finland, Canada, Russia, Colombia, and the US

This platinum group metal (PGM) is the most expensive metal to trade in the market, costing four times as much as gold and ten times as much as platinum.

Why is it the most expensive precious metal of all?

The following factors make rhodium more valuable than any other metal:

  • The automotive industry. 80% of demand for rhodium comes from this industry, as it is used in components such as headlights as well as catalytic converters to filter out poisonous nitrogen oxide from vehicle emissions that contribute to pollution.

    It is one of the most effective substances at doing this, so is the main substance used in catalytic converters, paired with smaller amounts of palladium and platinum.

    The automative industry is also growing in interest, which has heightened rhodium’s value.
  • Increased supply and demand – which has exploded since the constraints on rhodium production and exports that have been created by the pandemic, Russia-Ukraine war, and labour strikes in South Africa (with Russia and South Africa being its biggest producers). This naturally increases the cost of rhodium.
  • Its scarcity. Rhodium is one of the rarest precious metals on Earth, and has been made even scarcer by its current low global supply.
  • Its attractive colour and scratch-resistance. Rhodium is used to make jewellery and silverware resistant to both scratches and corrosion, being tarnish-resistant, very hard, and highly reflective. On top of this, it is an appealing silvery-white colour. It also is used to coat optical mirrors, headlight reflectors, and optic fibres due to these same features.

2. Iridium

Current spot value per oz: $4,900

Producing countries: The major iridium producers are South Africa, the US, Australia, Myanmar, Russia, and Brazil.

Iridium is one of the scarcest platinum group metals on the planet and a chemical element. It is also what is called a minor element, meaning it has a very small number of investors, and is the world’s second-densest known element.

Why is it so valuable?

  • Difficulty of producing it – which makes it harder for producers to meet demand, in turn making it more scarce on the market and expensive. It is produced as a byproduct of the extraction of other metals, and is difficult to work and shape because of its high melting point.

    Due to how difficult it is to produce, only about 3-4 tonnes of iridium are produced annually, a low yield compared to the annual yields of many other metals and minerals.
  • The technology industry. The tech sector has expanded rapidly in over the last few years. As iridium is a key part of components in various technologies, demand for it from the tech industry has risen hugely. This has resulted in a surge in iridium prices.
  • Its rarity – iridium is one of the scarcest metals in the Earth’s crust.
  • Its high resistance to corrosion – it is in fact the most corrosion-resistant metal in the world with an extremely high melting point, which makes it useful for manufacturing many things, despite how difficult it is to work.

    This resistance also partly explains…
  • Its wide range of industrial applications – iridium is used within various industries, from medical and aviation to metallurgy, vehicle, and electronics.

3. Palladium

Current spot value per oz: $2,109

Producing countries: Russia is the leading producer, and it is also produced in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Canada, and the US.

This silvery-white metal has the lowest melting point and density of all platinum group metals, and is a naturally occurring free metal.

It was first discovered in 1803, but only announced as a new discovery two years later, before which it was being sold under the name ‘new silver’.

Why is it so expensive?

  • Its rarity – palladium is around 30 times more rare than platinum or gold, automatically making it pricier.
  • Its low toxicity and attractive lustrous exterior – which means it can be used for electronics, jewellery, and decorations.
  • The automative industry – in which it is vital and rhodium’s main competitor. Like rhodium, it is also highly useful and effective in catalytic converters to extract toxic gases from vehicle exhaust.
  • Its wide range of other industrial uses. This is another element that has applications in many industries. It is used in aerospace, navigation, aviation, weaponry, dentistry, medicine, nuclear energy, and white gold alloys.

4. Gold

Current spot value per oz: $1,676

Producing countries: Most of the world’s gold is produced in China, Australia, and Russia, but it is also produced in Ghana, South Africa, the US, Canada, Peru, Indonesia, Mexico, and more.

Gold is the most popular investment of all precious metals. Despite probably being the most worshipped, it is not the most rare or widely applicable metal.

So why is it so valuable?

There are a number reasons for its price (and popularity):

  • It is an iconic symbol of power and wealth. Gold’s long-standing image of exclusivity and high class makes it highly desired, especially for personal items like jewellery.
  • Its stability in the markets. Gold has always held strong as a stock commodity even during periods of war and economic crisis. It can therefore be relied upon to retain its value, meaning many choose it as an investment.
  • It is easy to work, which means it is in high demand in many industries. It is the most malleable metal of all and one of the least chemically reactive elements. It also doesn’t rust or corrode due to the fact it doesn’t react with oxygen.

    It is mostly used in jewellery and trading, but also in electronics, aerospace equipment, medical and dental implants, and more.

5. Platinum

Current spot value per oz: $898

Producing countries: The major producer of platinum is South Africa, but is also produced in Russia, Zimbabwe, Canada, and the US.

Once regarded as nothing more than poor-quality silver, this PGM has since become a more valuable metal than silver.

Why is it so expensive?

  • It is very rare – far rarer than gold even, albeit less valuable. Although there is a smaller market for platinum, investor numbers are rising and it is mainly used for trading, along with jewellery.
  • Its properties make it suitable for many applications – it is dense, ductile, highly chemically unreactive and malleable. As well as being used in jewellery, it is also used in dentistry, anticancer drug, aeronautics, laboratory equipment, and more.

More of the most expensive precious metals on Earth:

6. Ruthenium
7. Silver
8. Osmium

Trading prices were taken from Daily Metal Prices’ latest data which was last updated on 12-13 October 2022. Daily Metal Prices determine the spot prices of commodities on a given day using various public sources, including stock market data from public exchanges like the New York Mercantile Commodity Exchange (COMEX) and London Metal Exchange (LME).

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