Where is Iridium Found? Top Global Iridium Producers

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Where is Iridium Found? Iridium might not always make the headlines, but its significance in the metals world is undeniable. Let’s embark on a journey to unveil the mysteries of this precious metal.

Introduction to Iridium 

Iridium, one of the rarest elements on Earth, is a lustrous silver-white metal. It belongs to the platinum group metals, known for their exceptional corrosion resistance and durability. 

But where does iridium fit into our daily lives and the larger industrial landscape?

The story of iridium is not just about a metal; it’s about technologies, industries, economies, and a constantly evolving world. 

Recognizing the sources and uses of iridium is crucial, not just for metallurgists and investors, but for anyone curious about the elements that shape our world.

Fun Fact: The name “iridium” originates from the Latin word “iris,” which means “rainbow.” This is due to the diverse colors of its salts.

Where is Iridium Found Globally?

Natural Occurrence of Iridium 

Iridium, while prized, is incredibly rare. It’s often found associated with other platinum group metals in mineral deposits. 

This metal doesn’t prefer to be a loner; it’s typically found combined with osmium in the naturally occurring alloy, osmiridium.

Given its scarcity, it’s fascinating to realize that iridium plays a role in certain monumental events. For instance, a layer of iridium-rich clay provided crucial evidence supporting the theory that a massive asteroid impact led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

The majority of iridium is extracted as a byproduct from nickel and copper ores. But where exactly are these deposits found on our vast planet?

Iridium Reserves Worldwide 

Understanding global iridium reserves requires a bit of geological detective work. Iridium is nestled within the Earth’s crust, but not uniformly. Certain regions, thanks to their unique geological history, are richer in this metal.

  • South Africa’s Bushveld Complex stands out. It’s a treasure trove, not just for iridium, but for several platinum group metals. Given its vastness and mineral-rich layers, this region contributes significantly to the world’s iridium supply.
  • Russia’s Norilsk deposits are another hotspot. The cold terrains of Siberia hide beneath them vast mineral wealth, including substantial amounts of iridium.

North America 

North America, with its varied landscapes, isn’t left out of the iridium narrative. While it may not rival South Africa or Russia in terms of volume, its contributions are noteworthy.

The Stillwater Complex in Montana, USA, is a shining example. This geological marvel, besides being a beautiful testament to Earth’s history, contains deposits of platinum group metals, iridium included. 

Mining operations here not only boost the local economy but add to the global iridium supply chain.

Canada, not wanting to be left out, has potential reserves in its vast terrains. While iridium mining isn’t Canada’s claim to fame, its mineral-rich lands, especially around Ontario’s Sudbury Basin, hint at promising prospects.

South America 

Let’s head south to a continent rich in culture, biodiversity, and yes, minerals! South America, with its tapestry of rainforests, mountains, and rivers, has its own iridium story to tell.

Brazil and Colombia, known for their gold and emeralds, also have regions with platinum group metal deposits. While their iridium output might not top the charts, they’re essential players in the broader mineral industry, contributing to the diversity of global reserves.

Fun Fact: Did you know the Andes Mountains, stretching along the western edge of South America, are not just a hiker’s paradise but also a geologist’s dream? They’re believed to harbor vast mineral reserves, perhaps even iridium!


Europe, a continent rich in history, art, and culture, also has its stake in the iridium tale. While it might not be the leading player, Europe’s mineral wealth is undeniably significant.

Russia’s Ural Mountains

Often referred to as the “spine of Russia,” these mountains are more than just a geographical wonder. They are:

  • A historic source of gemstones and metals.
  • Home to potential reserves of platinum group metals, with iridium among them.
  • Integral to Russia’s mining legacy and future prospects.


The northernmost regions of Europe, encompassing Norway, Sweden, and Finland, have always intrigued geologists. Here’s why:

  • Known for vast deposits of metals like nickel and copper.
  • Exploration projects have hinted at the presence of platinum group metals.
  • Rich in geological diversity, offering promising terrains for future mineral exploration.


Africa, often called the cradle of humanity, is also a treasure trove when it comes to minerals. Its vast landscapes, from the deserts of the north to the lush savannahs of the south, hide beneath them immense wealth.

Bushveld Complex, South Africa

This geological marvel deserves another mention. Why? Let’s have a look at some key points:

  • It’s the world’s largest source of platinum group metals.
  • Contributes massively to global iridium supplies.
  • A testament to the intricate processes of our planet’s formation and evolution.

Great Dyke, Zimbabwe

This linear geological feature stretching over 550 km is another African gem. Within it are:

  • Significant reserves of platinum group metals.
  • Potential contributions to the global iridium market.
  • An essential part of Zimbabwe’s mining industry and economy.


Asia, a vast continent of diverse cultures, terrains, and histories, also plays its part in the global iridium story.


As one of the world’s economic giants, China’s role in mineral extraction and production is pivotal. In the iridium context:

  • Exploratory mining projects have shown potential reserves.
  • Strong emphasis on research and development, exploring iridium’s potential applications.


With its rich geological past, especially the Deccan Traps resulting from volcanic activities, there’s potential for iridium and other metal reserves.

Fun Fact: The Deccan Traps in India, resulting from massive volcanic eruptions over 60 million years ago, have layers rich in iridium. This further fuels the theory of asteroid impact being linked to the extinction of dinosaurs!

The story of iridium is intertwined with the story of our planet. As we delve deeper into the reserves and extraction processes, we uncover tales of nature, human ingenuity, and the constant quest for progress.

(Note: Continuing from here would further explore the extraction process, top producers, applications, and market insights as mentioned in the initial outline.)

H2: Countries Dominating Iridium Reserves

While we’ve touched on the regions where iridium can be found, it’s important to pinpoint the countries that truly stand out in terms of reserves.

  • South Africa: With the Bushveld Complex being such a significant source of platinum group metals, it’s no surprise that South Africa leads the charge. This country is a powerhouse in the world of iridium, consistently ranking as the top producer and reserve holder.
  • Russia: The vast expanse of Russia, especially regions like the Ural Mountains, makes it another dominant player in the iridium industry. With both established mines and potential for new discoveries, Russia remains a force to reckon with.
  • Zimbabwe: The Great Dyke, as previously mentioned, positions Zimbabwe prominently on the iridium map. Although not as vast in production as South Africa or Russia, Zimbabwe’s reserves are significant and crucial to the global supply.

Comparison of Top Iridium Producing Countries

CountryEstimated Iridium Production (kg)% of Global Total
South Africa2,800 kg70%
Russia800 kg20%
Zimbabwe200 kg5%
Others200 kg5%

South Africa’s dominance in the table underscores the importance of the Bushveld Complex in the global iridium supply chain. The contributions from Russia and Zimbabwe further highlight the significance of regions rich in platinum group metals.

Top Leading Iridium Producers (Companies)

When it comes to extracting iridium from the earth, certain corporations lead the way. Their operations aren’t just about mining; they encompass research, technological advancements, and environmental stewardship.

  • Anglo American Platinum: This South African giant is a key player in the platinum group metals arena. Their operations are vast, spanning multiple continents, and their contributions to the iridium market are noteworthy.
  • Norilsk Nickel: This Russian behemoth, while primarily known for nickel, is also a significant producer of platinum group metals. Their iridium extraction, though a byproduct of their primary operations, is substantial.
  • Impala Platinum: Another South African standout, Impala Platinum, has operations that tap into the rich mineral wealth of the Bushveld Complex. Their role in the iridium market solidifies Africa’s position as a major contributor.

Comparing the Top Producing Iridium Companies

CompanyCountry of OriginEstimated Iridium Production (kg)Key Financial Metrics (USD)Important Mines
Anglo American PlatinumSouth Africa1,400 kgRevenue: $15 Billion, Profit: $4 BillionMogalakwena, Amandelbult
Norilsk NickelRussia600 kgRevenue: $13 Billion, Profit: $3.5 BillionOktyabrsky, Taimyrsky
Impala PlatinumSouth Africa500 kgRevenue: $6 Billion, Profit: $1.2 BillionImpala Rustenburg, Marula
Sibanye-StillwaterSouth Africa250 kgRevenue: $7 Billion, Profit: $1.5 BillionStillwater, East Boulder
Lonmin (Acquired by Sibanye-Stillwater)South Africa50 kg(Merged into Sibanye’s financials)Marikana

These companies stand out in the realm of PGM production, which includes iridium. Their operations, spanning continents and multiple mines, play a pivotal role in the global supply of this rare metal. For detailed, up-to-date metrics and figures, company annual reports and specialized industry publications would be essential sources.

Extracting and Refining Iridium

From Ore to Pure Metal 

The path of iridium from its ore to the refined metal we utilize is an intricate dance of geology and metallurgy. 

Initially found combined with other metals, iridium undergoes a series of processes to achieve its purest form.

  • Extraction: Like other platinum group metals, iridium is extracted through processes like flotation, which separates the metals from ore.
  • Refining: Once extracted, it’s refined using complex chemical processes, often involving high temperatures and specific reagents, to isolate iridium and remove any impurities.
  • Final Product: The end result is pure iridium, which is then molded into bars, sheets, or specific shapes for various industries.

Applications of Iridium 

Iridium’s rarity is contrasted by its myriad applications. This metal, with its impressive melting point and resistance to corrosion, has carved out a unique place in modern technology.

  • Electronics: Iridium’s high melting point makes it ideal for electrical contacts in devices that operate under extreme conditions.
  • Catalysts: In chemical reactions, especially in the automotive industry for catalytic converters, iridium plays a pivotal role.
  • Medicine: Iridium isotopes are used in radiation therapy for the treatment of specific cancers, showcasing its diverse utility.

This metal’s journey from the earth’s crust to our everyday lives is a testament to human innovation and nature’s wonders. As we delve deeper into market dynamics and environmental concerns, we further realize the intricate balance of industry, nature, and human progress.

H2: Current Market Insights

The demand and rarity of iridium inevitably make its pricing a subject of interest. 

Iridium Pricing

Factors like geopolitical tensions, technological advancements, and exploration results can influence its market price.

Dynamic Pricing: 

Like other precious metals, the price of iridium fluctuates based on global demand and supply. While it’s been traditionally less volatile than gold or silver, recent technological demands have brought some shifts.

Current Price of Iridium as of 2023

Iridium is trading at approximately $6,000 per ounce. However, for real-time and most accurate pricing, industry-specific databases or financial platforms would be the go-to sources.

Factors Influencing Price: 

What makes iridium’s pricing intriguing is the mix of factors influencing it:

  • Demand in Tech Industry: The surge in technology that uses iridium, like electronics and catalysts.
  • Mining Output: The quantity of iridium extracted annually.
  • Global Events: Geopolitical situations can impact mining operations and transportation.

Environmental Considerations

Mining, while crucial for extracting precious metals, invariably impacts the environment. Iridium mining is no exception.

  • Land Disruption: Like other mining activities, iridium extraction leads to significant land disruption. Habitats might be altered, which can affect local flora and fauna.
  • Water Usage: Mining often requires large amounts of water, potentially leading to local water shortages or affecting water quality.
  • Waste Management: Post extraction, managing the waste, especially if it contains chemicals, becomes vital to prevent soil and water contamination.

Bottom Line

From the heart of the earth to the heart of cutting-edge technology, Iridium’s journey is a mesmerizing tale of geology, human innovation, and the interconnectedness of modern industries. Whether you’re an investor eyeing the next big opportunity, an engineer marveling at metallurgical wonders, or a curious soul eager to understand the world a bit better, Iridium’s story offers something for everyone.

As we stand at the intersection of technological progression and sustainable practices, metals like iridium remind us of the intricate balance we must strive for. Harnessing its potential while respecting our planet’s well-being is the challenge and opportunity of our times.

To the explorers, dreamers, and thinkers: here’s to unearthing more stories, understanding our world’s intricacies, and appreciating the elements that silently but significantly shape our lives. Until our next deep dive, stay curious and keep exploring.

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