Amplats CEO says carmakers looking for palladium after Russia sanctions

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A pit head is seen at the Tumela platinum mine, an Anglo-American open pit mine located in Thabazimbi, Limpopo Province, South Africa June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

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JOHANNESBURG, April 6 (Reuters) - South Africa's Anglo American Platinum (AMSJ.J) (Amplats) has received enquiries from manufacturers and carmakers seeking palladium in the wake of Western sanctions on top producer Russia, CEO Natascha Viljoen said on Wednesday.

Palladium users with no existing contracts with the company have contacted Amplats about "potential alternative sources of palladium", Viljoen told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the PGMs Industry Day, a platinum group metals (PGMs) mining conference in Johannesburg.

Uncertainty is causing "desperation" in the market as metal consumers try to pin down reliable supply, Viljoen said.

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Russia produces 25-30% of the world's supply of palladium, a metal used by automakers in engine exhausts to reduce emissions.

"Where we can accommodate them [new customers] after looking after our long-term customers, we will obviously try as much as possible," Viljoen said, adding however that "we can't make any firm commitments".

Miners typically utilize long-term contracts, making surplus supply scarce.

It would take at least five years for South African palladium to ramp up to replace Russian production of the metal, and it may never fully get there, Viljoen said.

Russian metal can reach the market through other avenues, like China, so the supply chain is likely to shift rather than Russian supply fully stopping, she said.

Instead, the sanctions on Russia may result in a premium on South African palladium, while there may be a discount on palladium being sold into China, Viljoen said.

The world's biggest producer of primary platinum group metals (PGMs), Amplats produced 4.3 million ounces of PGMs in 2021.

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Reporting by Helen Reid; editing by David Evans and Sandra Maler

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