Sources of palladium production are quite limited. More than 80% of world palladium production is concentrated in just two countries: the Russian Federation and South Africa. The Russian Federation alone accounts for nearly half of total palladium supply.
Russia has three sources of palladium: the Norilsk Nickel mine, Gokhran (Russia's precious metals and gems reserve) and the Russian Central Bank. The state-owned trading monopoly, Almazyuvelirexport, handles palladium shipments from Russia.
The Norilsk-Talnakh region in the Russian Federation produces the majority of its palladium, and the company NORILSK NICKEL is the world palladium industry leader. Because the palladium mined by this company falls short of meeting the tremendously growing world demand, the Russian State has filled the deficit from large state stockpiles.
The Norilsk-Talnakh mines reached their highest level of production in the late eighties. Output fell at the beginning of the nineties, mainly due to low level of investment as well as to lower productive capacity. PGMs grades were also lower due to the mining-out of massive sulphide ores. Higher palladium prices in the late nineties prompted Norilsk Nickel to successfully invest in improving PGM recoveries, resulting in increases in refined PGM production.
The Russian Federation is also the only country which has held significant stockpiles of palladium, although many believe that their level has decreased considerably. The actual level of Russian palladium stockpiles is a state secret. Russian Government export policies have significantly influenced world palladium supply and prices volatility.
The other significant producing area is the Bushveld Complex in South Africa, where Platinum Group Metals are mined as primary products. Palladium is also mined in smaller deposits in United States and Canada. Mining companies in South Africa and North America are developing expansion plans which will lead to future increases in palladium production.
Mining Platinum Group Metals is capital intensive. Large investments are needed to build production facilities and long-term survival of a PGM mine requires heavy expenditures in order to finance exploration and production. Processing of the ore through milling, flotation and smelting to form a matte that contains the PGM is normally undertaken at the mines. Further refining may take place in refineries on the mine property or elsewhere.
New palladium mine development and exploration outside the Russian Federation, particularly in North America, are taking place as a result of the palladium market boom. This is a response to the erratic Russian supplies and consequent higher palladium prices. Diversification away from dependence on Russian palladium is considered desirable.