Amplats Offers to Help Investors Set Up Fuel-Cell Manufacturing

Anglo American Platinum Ltd. is offering to help investors set up South African production of hydrogen fuel cell-based products, which use the precious metal as a catalyst to generate electricity, as a way to encourage demand.

Amplats, as the Johannesburg-based unit of Anglo American Plc is known, is among producers that see fuel cells consuming as many as 600,000 ounces of platinum a year by 2025. Fuel cells can be used to bring power to areas where supply is constrained. Platinum prices are down more than 40 percent since August 2011.

“What our strategy has been is to establish the technology for rural applications in South Africa, so we invested a lot of money to get to the level where the product is capable of going to market,” Andrew Hinkly, Amplats’ executive head of marketing and sales, said in the southern Eastern Cape province, where it showed fuel cells used to power charging stations for tablets and computers in schools. “We’re willing to invest further to make sure that the manufacturing can happen in South Africa.”

Amplats will exit any manufacturing venture as soon as the business proves to be successful, Hinkly said on Friday.

“Our strategy is to incubate future sources of demand,” Hinkly said. “For as long as that incubation period takes, we will be involved but once its successful we’ll back off.”

Fuel cells are being used for backup electricity in telecommunication masts and Amplats and Ballard Power Inc are testing a plant that uses the technology to power a community independent from the national grid in South Africa’s central Free State province.

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