With uses ranging from jewelry to catalytic converters, platinum ranks among the most prized and expensive metals. About 70 percent of the world’s platinum is mined in South Africa’s Bushveld Igneous Complex, along with significant quantities of palladium, rhodium, chromium and vanadium.
This image of the Bushveld Igneous Complex, acquired by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) sensor on NASA’s Terra satellite, shows the portion of Bushveld that surrounds the Bospoort Dam. Bushveld is an example of a large igneous province, an assemblage of rocks formed by volcanic activity.
In addition to being a large area— a geological formation roughly the size of West Virginia—Bushveld’s rock layers are several kilometers thick. The complex comprises multiple “suites” of rocks, each of which in turn holds multiple layers. Different layers are sources of different types of valuable metals. Some favor platinum, for example, while others are rich in chromium.
Image courtesy of NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team.