How Much Gold is in Your Cell Phone?

It might make more commercial sense to mine your local T-Mobile store for gold than it does to pan your local streams and rivers. 

In a recent report by the European Commissioner for the Environment, Janez Potocnik said, “There’s gold in waste- literally. It takes a ton of ore to get 1g of gold. But you can get the same amount from recycling the materials in 41 mobile phones.” 

“Gold ore deposits typically have concentrations of gold at 1 to 2 parts per million.” says Dave Howell, an economic geologist at the University of Leicester. 

Does that mean there will be a new gold rush in the used and stolen cell phone market? A report from the Belgian tech company Umicore stated that a tonne of old cell phones (weighed without their batteries) can produce 300g of gold. At current prices, that puts about $1.70 worth of gold in your cell phone. 

The point of Janez’s speech was to promote what he describes as the “circular economy”. “In essence we propose to make Europe a society without waste. To take the 600 million tons of materials contained in our waste and pump them back into productive use in the economy” said Potocnik. 

About 7.4 tons of gold are mined each day around the world. How many cell phones would we need to recycle to get that amount of gold? 300 million. If cell phones were our only supply of gold, we would run out in less than a month. 

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