Iridium climbs to all-time high of $6,000/oz on tight supply, increased demand

According to a report by S&P Global Platts, Iridium base prices scaled a record high of $6,000/oz on March 19, buoyed by supply issues from South Africa and strong demand from the electrical and electrochemical sector.

A rapid surge in PGM prices

S&P Platts noted that the platinum group metal (PGM) vaulted to nearly three-and-a-half fold over the past three months, from $1,760/oz on Dec. 18.

The Platts New York Dealer iridium price climbed to $5,750-$6,150/oz for the March 12-18 period, from $5,000-$5,750/oz during the previous week.

PGM refiner Johnson Matthey said that its iridium base prices soared 9% on March 12 to reach $6,000/oz, while the iridium base prices of Germany’s Engelhard Materials Services surged by 9% last week to close at $6,000/oz.

Supply woes

South Africa accounts for nearly 81% of the global iridium mine supply. However, the COVID-19 had severely disrupted South African supply in 2020, resulting in the surge in iridium prices.

Increased demand for Iridium

Iridium is critical for several niche products like the temperature-resistant crucibles used to grow synthetic crystals for electronics and telecommunications systems, such as 5G; high-performance spark plugs; medical devices; and iridium-coated electrodes for navel ballast systems.

In 2020, 31% of total iridium demand had come from the electrical sector, 26% from the electrochemical, and 13% from automotive.

According to a research note by Heraeus Precious Metals whose iridium industrial price stood at $6,600/oz, up 8.2% on March 12, the demand for iridium is expected to increase further by the development of the 5G smartphone market, with premium products propping up demand for organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays.

Heraeus noted that the global smartphone shipments are expected to rise 5.5% year on year in 2021, boosted by a post-COVID recovery in demand and 5G device interest, as per the International Data Corporation (IDC).

Heraeus said: “5G is anticipated to be a key driver of growth, boosted by the success of Apple’s full iPhone 12 line-up and selected Samsung Galaxy handsets. IDC expects 5G smartphone shipments to account for more than 40% of global volume in 2021, growing to 69% in 2025.

Costs are declining as more manufacturers release 5G handsets, which will accelerate the rate of adoption. German technology group Merck recently announced a €20 million [$24 million] expansion of its OLED manufacturing capacity at sites in Korea and China to meet growing customer demand in Asia.”

Written By Jonathan Norris
Jonathan is a founder of and has been covering the resources industry since 2018. With over 17 years experience in print, broadcast and online media, Jonathan has seen first hand the transformative effect of online niche media.