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Technical Competence and Getting the Job Done

All precious metals refiners are not the same…there are major differences that should concern every precious metals catalyst owner:

  • The methodology of processing and sampling, and how accurate it is
  • The methodology of metals refining, and how thorough it is


Sampling Principles

In order to scientifically determine the PM value within a given batch of precious metal-bearing materials there are three absolutes: precise weighing, proper sampling and accurate analysis. Believe it or not, there are still pseudo-refiners out there who will offer to buy your precious metals based on something else. This type of transaction is very dangerous ground.

Unlike a bank transaction where you can count and verify the amount of money, the only way to evaluate precisely the value of a refining lot is sampling and assaying. All professional and reputable precious metals refiners therefore allow open access for the PM owner (or their representative) to be present at any of stage of the process in an effort to create maximum transparency.

The fundamental principle of sampling involves reducing large quantities of precious metal-bearing materials into smaller, representative samples. Sampling therefore begins by homogenizing the customer materials as much as possible so that the concentration of precious metals and other constituents is evenly distributed. A properly drawn sample of a homogeneous mass contains an accurate ratio of the precious metals content in the overall matrix. Samples are taken for the customer (seller) and the PM refiner (buyer), as well as for umpire and reserve. More on this in the QOS series entitled “Laboratory Analysis”.

PM Refining Procedures

PM refiners are also not all the same because there are differences in how they subsequently extract the precious metals. The Sabin Metal West plant, in North Dakota, recovers precious metals from catalysts pyro-metallurgically; that is…we melt them. This gives us a rather unique standing in our industry, as all of our known global competitors refine precious metals from catalysts hydro-metallurgically; that is, they dissolve the catalysts in acids or strong caustics. Depending upon the condition of the catalysts and the other elements present, the metals recovery difference between these two methods can be dramatic. Pyro-metallurgical processing (or melting) achieves greater recoveries of the platinum group metals, where hydro-metallurgical processing (dissolving) can only recover PGM that is soluble. Other factors, such as a high-temperature event in situ, can cause a phase-change of the alumina. This would also present serious problems with solubility.

The Take-Away

Make sure your precious metals end up with a responsible recycler, root out and eliminate the unethical and the wasteful, and forge global partnerships; allow for fair margins, invest in research and development; discard perceived limitations and challenge what is ‘normal’.

At Sabin, we believe that long-term wisdom and meaningful innovation is best for business, and as a result, it is what is best for the society of Mankind. If you’d like to learn more about this topic, or any of the other Sabin Metal Precious Metal bulletins, please visit us at www.sabinmetal.com.

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Know what matters

Learn more about precious metal refining and how to get the highest possible return.

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