Platinum and palladium are precious metals with unique properties that make them indispensable in many technological applications, particularly autocatalysts. As minerals, both are quite rare and are mostly found in just a few regions around the world. One of them stretches across the northern flank of the Beartooth Mountains in Montana, USA.

The area, geologically known as the Stillwater complex, hosts two underground mines, Stillwater and East Boulder – although “underground” may sound slightly misleading as the mining assets lie more than 2,700 meters above sea level in the mountains.

The mines are owned and run by the Sibanye-Stillwater Group, one of the world’s largest producers of platinum and palladium. The Stillwater mine has been in operation for almost 40 years and produces some 250–300 koz, or about 7,000–8,500 kg, of platinum and palladium concentrate yearly.

Since July of 2022, Sibanye has been using Robit’s consumables for jumbo and bolting drilling at the Stillwater Mine. That was the result of a fruitful cooperation between Robit and their distributor, NISS (Nasco Industrial Services & Supply), headquartered in Kellogg, Idaho. That cooperation turned out to be mutually beneficial.

“We had been looking for a reliable distributor who could help improve our market penetration for the mining sector in Southwest US. We hired a consultant for the job, and one of the largest US mining companies recommended NISS to Robit”, says Robit Sales Engineer Leif Olmstead.

“NISS had great access to mines through selling ground support products. Previously, they hadn’t dealt in drilling consumables, but this became a win-win situation: we gained a better foothold in a new market, and NISS could expand their product portfolio”, Leif explains.

The first customer Robit won with NISS was the Stillwater Mine in Montana. Stillwater is a large-scale operation that uses the “ramp and fill” method, where the excavated spaces are filled again with waste rock and tailings once the ore has been extracted. For jumbo work, the mine uses 3,200 and 4,305 mm Robit drifter rods and 45 mm semi-ballistic S model bits; for bolting, R28-R28 M/M Hex Steel rods. Sibanye-Stillwater are happy with the supplied tools.

“We hear the rod lifetime has improved over the previous supplier, and the jumbo bits are faster and have fewer plugging issues,” says Leif.

Work at the Stillwater Mine won’t be ending anytime soon: the estimated life of the mine extends well into the 2050s. As for Robit and NISS, it has proved a promising start for their future endeavors together.

Picture: The Beartooth Mountains, just northeast of Yellowstone National Park, are part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.