Palladium is a chemical element with symbol Pd and atomic number 46. It is a rare and lustrous silvery-white metal discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston. He named it after the asteroid Pallas, which was itself named after the epithet of the Greek goddess Athena, acquired by her when she slew Pallas. Palladium, platinum, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium and osmium form a group of elements referred to as the platinum group metals (PGMs).
More than 85% palladium is used in catalytic converters for cars burning gasoline, which convert as much as 90% of the harmful gases in automobile exhaust (hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide) into less noxious substances (nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapor). As emission standards become stricter, more palladium is used in each automobile. Platinum, on the other hand, is mainly used in vehicles that burn diesel fuel.
Palladium is also used in electronics, dentistry, medicine, hydrogen purification, chemical applications, groundwater treatment, and jewelry. Palladium is a key component of fuel cells, which react hydrogen with oxygen to produce electricity, heat, and water.
Ore deposits of palladium and other PGMs are rare. The most extensive deposits have been found in the norite belt of the Bushveld Igneous Complex covering the Transvaal Basin in South Africa; the Stillwater Complex in Montana, United States; the Sudbury Basin and Thunder Bay District of Ontario, Canada; the Norilsk Complex in Russia and most recently, the northern part of the Visayas islands in the Philippines. World mine supply is just under 7 million ounces. Recycling is also a source, mostly from scrapped catalytic converters. This supplied a further 3.2 million oz to the market in 2018. The numerous applications and limited supply sources result in considerable investment interest.
These are now largely depeted, resulting in palladium reaching an all time high price of more than $US3,000 per ounce in May, 2021. Canada produces an average of about 600,000 ounces of palladium per year, most of it from Ontario.