Iridium is the rarest metal in the Earth’s crust, used in metal alloying due to its physical and chemical properties.

Iridium (Ir)

Iridium is the rarest metal in the Earth’s crust and is highly demanded due to its properties and emerging use in green technology. It is hard and highly corrosive-resistant, making it an ideal metal for alloying. Moreover, it has many industrial applications from healthcare to aviation. Today, demand for iridium is rapidly expanding thanks to its applications in smart devices and emerging green technology. Due to its rarity and lack of abundance, it has high price volatility. Iridium is found both in its pure form in nature and, more commonly, as a by-product of other materials such as nickel and copper. South Africa is the leading producer of iridium, along with other platinum group metals. Iridium is not associated with many ESG issues.

Main Uses and Attributes

Iridium is a hard, silver metal which is known for being the most corrosion resistant metal on Earth.[1] It is also one of the rarest elements on Earth; it is found either on its own in the process of nickel refining, but it is most commonly located in platinum ores. Annual iridium production is approximately three tonnes. Meteors and asteroids contain higher levels of iridium than the Earth’s crust; impact from falling meteors and asteroids may deposit iridium globally.[2]

Iridium is used in special alloys. It is often deployed as a hardening agent in many metal alloys, which can be used to make various heavy-duty equipment and jewellery.[3] It can be used for contacts in high-grade spark plugs due to its high melting point and reactivity, which are in turn then used in general aviation aircrafts. Iridium can also be alloyed with osmium in order to make compass bearings or pen tips. On its own, iridium is a crucial component in the manufacturing of LED screens and backlit displays of smart technology, such as smartphones or tablets.[4]

Iridium has two known stable isotopes. As a radioactive isotope, iridium is used in the medical industry for cancer treatment, specifically, radiation therapy, and X-ray photographs of metal castings.[5]

Most recently, iridium has been used as a critical material for the development of low-carbon energy systems, including that of ‘green’ hydrogen which is produced by electrolysing water.[6]

Main Uses

  • Electronics
  • Medical Equipment
  • Metal Alloys

Key Industries

  • Chemical
  • Jewellery
  • Medical

Key Countries

Top Producer South Africa
Top Reserves South Africa

Supply Chain Risk

TDi assesses Iridium for key risks affecting the security of supply, and for its association with artisanal and small-scale mining.

Overall Supply Chain Resilience Risk
Strength of Association with ASM
Very Low Moderate Very High

Country Governance Risks

Iridium's association with countries experiencing:

Violence and Conflict
Weak Rule of Law
Poor Human Rights
Poor Environmental Governance
Very Low Moderate Very High

Association with ESG issues

TDi Sustainability's data rates Iridium's association with the following issues as high or very high:

Violence and Conflict
Disease Prevalence in Affected Areas
Negative Perceptions of Corporate Citizenship
Occupational Health and Safety
Child Labour
Labour Rights
Forced Labour
Indigenous Peoples Rights
Company/Community Conflicts
Community Rights Violations
Tailings Breaches
Release of Radiation
Negative Biodiversity and Conservation Impact
Degraded/Fragmented Landscape
Very Low Moderate Very High

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