The “most precious metal” rhodium has seen something of a rollercoaster this year, rising from $6050 an ounce at the start of 2020 to a high of $13 800/oz in March, but plummet to $7800 soon after responding to the covid-19 pandemic sentiment.
In September it hit a new all-time high of $14 490 an ounce. Yesterday it hit a record high again, rocketing to $20 190 an ounce, up from $16 990 on 31 Dec 2020.
Like its sister metals palladium and platinum, rhodium’s main application is to clean vehicle emissions, and surging demand amid tighter pollution regulation, particularly in Europe and China, and supply shortfalls from top producer South Africa could see the metal rally further.
South African PGM producers extract a mix of metals comprising roughly 60% platinum, 30% palladium and 10% rhodium.
Rhodium is a silver-white metallic element, is highly resistant to corrosion, and is extremely reflective. It is used as a finish for jewellery, mirrors, and search lights. It is also used in electric connections and is alloyed with platinum for aircraft turbine engines.
Another use is manufacturing of nitric acid and used in hydrogenation of organic compounds. Rhodium usage is dominated by automotive catalyst applications where it is used together with platinum and palladium to control exhaust emissions.
South Africa is the major source, accounting for almost 60% of the world’s rhodium supply Russia is the second-largest producer, although its sales are, as with the other PGMs, volatile and subject to political intervention.