Precious Metals Catalyst Reclamation

June 13, 2017

environment regulations-sabin metal corporationBradford Cook, VP – Sales and Marketing at Sabin Metal Corporation discusses some of the issues in precious metals catalyst recycling

Platinum catalyst and platinum sponge (Photo by Sabin Metal Corporation)Part One: Price vs. Cost

We all know that it is the goal of procurement and purchasing managers to save their employers money. With regard to precious metals catalyst recycling, when the catalysts in question can contain millions of dollars in platinum group metals, this must involve a balance between the performance and quality of what you are buying and a fair price.

As clients seek deeper and deeper discounts in the manufacturing sector, vendors do everything they can to reduce costs of labour and raw materials, etc. Costs can be cut, production speed can be increased, etc; but only to a point. Nine women cannot make a baby in one month. Cross the line and you will suffer the consequences in some way.

In the precious metals recycling industry, compromising quality typically means increased risks to you as the owner of the catalyst (and the precious metals within); monetary risks of metals loss, liability risks in terms of improper disposal of wastes, or other improper behaviour.

High quality in precious metals refining involves proper weighing and sampling, and accurate analysis. Without that, the highest quality of metals return cannot be achieved. It takes trained people, calibrated equipment, time and experience to accomplish this. It sounds trite, but quality cannot and does not come cheap. Degrees of accuracy are in direct correlation to the investment made in creating them.

Part Two: Choosing a Precious Metals Refiner

Clearly, when choosing a precious metals refiner, catalyst owners need to ensure that it o’ers an appropriate and thorough method for processing and metals refining, and that it complies with relevant ethical and regulatory legislations.

At our plant in North Dakota, Sabin Metal West, we refine precious metals from catalysts pyro-metallurgically; that is…we melt them. As far as we know, our global competitors all 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. If the matrix of the PGM-bearing material is insoluble, for instance, or if a high temperature event has caused a phase-change of the alumina, you could have a serious problem with getting it all into solution.

Ethical compliance must also be addressed. In the industrial catalyst business, professional witnessing, compliance with anti-money laundering legislation and the knowledge gained by the catalyst owners have all helped to reduce actual robbery dramatically. A few spectacular scandals helped as well. Nevertheless, in their constant search for lower prices, catalyst owners must remain vigilant, and make sure they choose a refiner that they can trust.

Otherwise, consider what happens if these two misconceptions are combined (lowest bidder mentality and questionable ethics): catalyst owners can be o’ered the lowest price for services that they have ever seen by the guy who distorts the precious metals content by the tiniest fraction of a percent. The traditional ‘lowest price for services” strategy is counterproductive in the precious metals industry because it gives no thought to the real money: the tens of thousands, or sometimes millions of dollars in precious metals value.


Proper sampling and returning the highest possible metal values to clients are of tantamount importance, and they must go hand-in-hand with environmental responsibility and sound ethics. In order to mitigate the potentially major differences between precious metal refiners, the degree of quality each one possesses, the accuracy of the weighing, sampling and analysis, etc. and their character as a company, you’ve got to do your homework.

1. Terms and Contract Details:
a. Be sure that the final settlement is calculated using weights and assays.
b. Be sure you are being paid for “total” metal returns and not simply “acid-soluble” metal.
c. Request to see regulatory compliance documents for environmental responsibility and Anti-Money Laundering policy (required by Sorbaines-Oxley and the Patriot Act).

2. Audits:
a. Check them out yourself or contract a reputable, experienced firm to do so on your behalf.
b. Follow up on the compliance documentation…are they adhering to it?
c. Examine the processing and sampling equipment.
d. Review their controls of maintenance and calibration, for both the weighing and sampling departments and lab.

3. Third-Party Representation:
a. None of the above protects you from someone whose morality changes with the circumstances. Hire an umpire. You may have heard this before, but there is no place where this is more true and correct: it doesn’t matter what you know until you know what matters. Knowing what the true monetary priorities are, knowing the details of how your materials will be sampled and treated, and most of all, knowing with whom you are dealing.

Bradford Cook
VP – Sales and Marketing
Sabin Metal Corporation
East Hampton, NY, USA

(Photo by Sabin Metal Corporation)