The platinum mining experience.

Platinum_wedding_rings1Have you ever wondered how platinum is mined? Or how the mining industry may have an impact on the local community that surrounds it? Or what happens when you go into a mine? Novell’s Bruce Pucciarello writes about his 2006 journey to the platinum mines of South Africa:

“If I am counting correctly, this is the 14th trade magazine article that I have written. It has been the most difficult one to start and the most difficult to finish. In past articles I have reflected my passion for jewelry and my insatiable hunger to communicate with my peers in an effort to make what we do better and stronger. The times that I have written of my personal experiences, it was usually tongue-in-cheek, poking a little fun, and trying to make sure that the reader understood I do not take myself too seriously.”

“This time is different. I am still sharing a personal experience, but it is an adventure that will remain one of the defining moments in my long journey up through the ranks of the jewelry industry. It truly was a platinum experience.”

“I devote a lot of time to developing and promoting platinum. In my mind, part of my motivation is a personal quest. My goal is Novell’s constant and successful evolution. Making platinum jewelry gives us the opportunity to challenge, grow, and showcase our design and manufacturing abilities. Platinum is the catalyst for many jewelry designers and smart marketers to get away from an environment that minimizes the value of mid-market bridal jewelry sales. With platinum, better retailers present the very best to the consumer. Because platinum challenges us, it makes us a stronger industry.”

“When explaining how rare platinum is, jewelry insiders often say, ‘In order to make one ounce of platinum, they have to mine ten tons of ore.’ That’s a powerful statement, and it has more meaning now that I understand what ten tons of ore look like, how difficult it is to get out of the ground, and exactly who ‘they’ in that statement are.”

“In October of 2006, my wife, Marion, and I joined an amazing group of people on a trip to South Africa. Platinum Guild International and their sponsors invited us to spend a week talking about platinum, marketing, and South Africa. What we learned, and what we saw, will play an important part in how we work together to provide guidance to our industry in the future.”

“The small group, comprised of American jewelry manufacturers and retailers, was weary from the long journey to Johannesburg (J-berg, if you want to sound like you are an insider). On our first full day in South Africa, we boarded a bus at 5:30am and embarked on a two-hour drive to the Rustenburg Platinum Mine. We turned into the location of Frank 1 and Frank 2, mines owned and operated by Anglo Platinum.”

“It is important to note that 75 percent of the world’s platinum comes from South Africa and Anglo Platinum is the largest platinum mining company in that country. Anglo Platinum mines about 38 percent of the world’s supply of platinum. If you give it some thought, this helps to explain Platinum’s rarity. Three quarters of the world’s platinum is located in one medium-sized country and one company mines half of that supply. Also, Anglo is the largest financer of PGI’s effort to promote platinum at a global level.”

“Next, we all dressed in the official uniform of the miners-batteries clipped onto belts and miner’s hard hats in place. We boarded a metal cage elevator for our descent, one-and-a-half miles below the surface. The elevator dropped at about 35 miles per hour into pitch-black darkness. Once we reached the main shaft, we began our trek, starting at a point where large conveyor belts bring the freshly mined ore to the elevators for transport to the surface. As we walked (and we did walk for a long time) we understood the necessity of the uniform and the equipment. I inadvertently banged my head on the ceiling rock, and into the large bolt ends that held rock in place, at least 20 times, every time the miner’s hard hat preventing skull damage. The heavy batteries clipped to my belt lit the light on my hard hat, which guided me through the darkness.”

“We stopped at a safe room; this was a “more secure area” that the miners would report to in case of a collapse. It did not seem so safe when the crew chief told us this room would only provide four hours of oxygen. Then we continued our hike to the end of the main shaft. Along the way, we passed abandoned side shafts-the tunnels that the miners make to remove the PGM (Platinum Group Metals). As mined-out old shafts are closed, new ones spider out, so the length of the main shaft gets longer. The miners locate the richer veins in the walls of the main shaft and chase them into the solid rock, exploding out a little more each day.”

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