September 19, 2001, a subcontractor of the factory AZF load in a skip 500kg nitrate and a few kilos of waste containing chlorine.


Two days later at 10 a.m, the contractor discharge the skip above 300 to 400 tons of nitrates. At 5:17 p.m., the hangar explodes, forming an oval-shaped crater 70 meters long, 40 meters wide and 5 to 6 meters deep. Its power corresponds to an earthquake measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale.

The AZF factory turns into a ruin field. In the pile of debris, it’s likely that precious metals can be found there …

The main activity of the factory was the synthesis of ammonia for manufacturing products for agriculture (nitrogen fertilizers) and industry (mining explosives particular). As part of these activities, the AZF industrial site was on cracking acids. using catalysts.

All our attention arises here on catalysts. Probably consisted mostly with precious metals from the platinum group.


At the chemical level, Platinum has an important role. A gaseous mixture of ammonia and oxygen is ignited with a platinum wire (which acts as a catalyst) and is burnt to give nitrogen and carbonated water.


But during the disaster, what therefore became this metal ?




The metal made of a platinum-rhodium alloy is present in this type of industry in the form of gauze (fine thread). Given the price of platinum, it could have inflame the lust of some …

Affairs about platinum robbery had been already noted. In 2009, an outbound truck chemical plant GPN (Total industry) near Lens was robbed by three men. The convoy was carrying 50kg of Platinum. The authors of the robbery were so knowledgeable and therefore were not extirpate the portfolio of conveyors.

Scrap experts merchants scrap therefore could recover the metal in their favor when cleaning the site after the explosion.

Or the platinum itself could mix with other rubble to finish in scrap and be abandoned.


Nobody knows, and all assumptions are possible here. But the ruin of field would be likely turned into a gold mine after the explosion !




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