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eftcovery of the Elements
Platinum Group: Ruthenium
James L. Marshall, Beta Eta / 97/, and
Virginia R. Marshall, Beta Eta 2003,
Department of Chemistry, University of
North Texas, Denton,TX 76203-5070,
n an earlier issue of The HEXAGON, we wit-
nessed the discovery in South America of
platinum and in London of four of its asso-
ciated elements-palladium, rhodium, osmi-
um, and iridium. In the present issue, we shall
learn of the discovery of the rich deposits of
platinum in Russia and the history of rutheni-
Kushvaf Nizhniy Tagil area
Pt ; .
Visim-Utkinsk Cher 4 hinsk
Pt *Ic1 kha
Karpu hikha Nev'yansk
Figure 1. "Rediscovery" sites in
Russia and environs. The first
Russian platinum strikes in the
1820s were in the Nizhniy Tagil
area on the east slope of the
Urals. Platinum was used in
coins minted in St. Petersburg
1828-1844, and the platinum
residues were important in the
discovery of ruthenium, discov-
ered in Kazan by Klaus in 1844.
Earlier work on Russian plat-
inum in a search for additional
elements was done in 1828 by
Osann in Dorpat (now Tartu),
Estonia, and in 1808 by
Sniadecki in Vilnius, Lithuania. Other sites for reference are included: Beresov was the source of crocoite
(lead chromate) for Vauquelin's discovery of chromium; Tobolsk was the birthplace of Mendeleev; Dubna is
the site of Russia's super heavy nuclei research, for which dubnium was named.
um, the last of the platinum-group elements.
The discovery of Russian platinum. At
the end of the 16th century, the Russian Empire
began its expansion eastward. The Cossack
explorer Ermak (pronounced Yermak)
Timofeyevich (?-1585) is familiar to Russians in
heroic ballads of the Siberian chronicles as the
leader who marked the beginning of coloniza-
tion beyond the Urals.i (Figure 1) In 1580, he
crossed the Urals and rafted down the
Barancha River to the Tagil River (the site of the
future Russian platinum discoveries, Figure 2),
and eventually went as far as the Ob and Irtysh
rivers deep in Siberia." The Pacific Ocean was
finally reached during the reign of Alexei
Mikhailovich Romanov (1629-1676), the father
of Peter the Great (1672-1725), the founder of
St. Petersburg.' This eastward expansion of
hunters and settlers was in many ways analo-
gous to the American westward migration dur-
ing the 1700s and 1800s.
Figure 2. Urals north of Ekaterinburg. Platinum grains
were originally discovered in players washed from the
Urals eastward toward Nizhniy Tagil. Today, the area
about Visim affords the richest platinum mining.
The Urals were a vast source of mineral rich-
es, ready to be exploited. This chain of moun-
tains was created 250-300 million years ago
when the supercontinent islands Siberia and
Baltica collided, creating geological hydrother-
mal processes for mineral separation and con-
centration.' A particularly bountiful area was
just west of Nizhniy Tagil (Figure 2), 125 kilo-
meters north of Ekaterinburg. Iron, copper, and
gold mining rapidly developed in Nizhniy Tagil
in the 17th century. The famous malachite
(basic copper carbonate) used in the Hermilage
and the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg
was procured here '; steel and copper produc-
tion was developed; and later, Stalin would
choose this area for maximum production of
steel and the manufacture of tanks for WWII."
In the early 1800s, rumors began to circulate
that platinum-previously known only from
the New World-could be found in the Nizhniy
Tagil area.' The first documented Russian plat-
inum was in the form of placer grains in 1819,
washed down from the Urals; five years later,
the first commissioned platinum mine was
established on the banks of the Barancha
River,4 northwest of Nizhniy Tagil (Figure 3). By
1840, dozens of platinum mines had been
developed about Nizhniy Tagil, and later, addi-
THE HEXAGON/SUMMER 2009
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Marshall, James L., 1940- & Marshall, Virginia R. Rediscovery of the Elements: Ruthenium, article, Summer 2009; Indianapolis, Indiana. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc111238/m1/1/: accessed May 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Arts and Sciences.