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Old cell phones worth more ton for ton than a gold mine

A process called “urban mining” may have many rethinking simply throwing their old electronics into the trash can or tossing them into the junk drawer to collect dust. The so-called urban mining describes a process where old electronics like computers and cell phones are scavenged and ripped apart for their base metals like iridium and gold.

With metal prices hitting all time highs around the world, the urban mining business is booming. The metals recovered from the process are reused in new electronic devices and the gold and other precious metals are melted into ingots that can be used to create jewelry or used to create new electronic devices.

Gold is common in many electronic devices and components for its ability to better transfer electricity than copper. Tadahiko Sekigawa, president of Eco-System Recycling Co. told Reuters, “It can be precious or minor metals, we want to recycle whatever we can.”

It might not seem like there would be enough gold or other precious metals inside obsolete electronics to warrant the effort of recycling. On the contrary, used electronic devices are often a much better source of gold than actually having a small gold mine.

According to Reuters a ton of ore form a gold mine produces only 5 grams of gold on average. A ton of used cell phones can yield 150 grams of gold or more. In addition to the gold the same volume of discarded phones can have 220 pounds of copper and 6.6 pounds of silver as well as other metals.

The price of gold alone hit an all time high in March 2008 of $1,030.80 per ounce. One Eco-Systems recycling plant in Honjo, Japan produces around 440 to 660 pounds of gold bars per month with 99.99% purity. This amount of gold has a worth of about $5.9 to $8.8 million on today’s market. That's literally the same output as a small gold mine.

When the amount of money that can be made from recycling old electronic components for their base metals is taken into consideration it is easy to understand why Clover Technologies Group, the winner of the contract with the USPS for its mail-in recycling project, was willing to foot the bill for shipping. The amount of money also makes the fact that America ships tons of used electronics overseas each year look like American’s are doing someone a favor.

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Ok I'm Convinced
By Adonlude on 4/30/2008 3:06:35 PM , Rating: 2
Alright, I have a drawer full of old cell phones that I dont use anymore and I'd like to make some money. What's the process here? Do I grab a fondue kit and throw my cell phones in under medium heat then skim the gold off the top? How do I avoid an unfortunate smelting accident?

RE: Ok I'm Convinced
By StraightPipe on 4/30/2008 3:30:03 PM , Rating: 2
I read an article a few weeks back aqbout a guy who got mercury poisoning while trying to extract gold from old Mobos.

(sorry, no linky)

RE: Ok I'm Convinced
By JonB on 4/30/2008 4:20:08 PM , Rating: 2
I seem to remember that mercury can be used to scavange gold from parts (even gold bearing rock). Then you just separate the gold from the mercury. Old technology but prone to self poisoning.

RE: Ok I'm Convinced
RE: Ok I'm Convinced
By jtemplin on 4/30/2008 4:37:46 PM , Rating: 3
LOL from your link:

1. 4/1/2008 8:44:54 AM, Issueist, Tulsa, ok
dude, the mercury is banned because its dangerous...why did you use the mercury dude??

just why, i mean why did you use it dude?

just why, i mean why did you use it dude?
2. 4/1/2008 10:21:28 AM, kevin, owasso
The dude cant hear you.
He is dead.

RE: Ok I'm Convinced
By jtemplin on 4/30/2008 4:38:51 PM , Rating: 3
The dude abides.

RE: Ok I'm Convinced
By Runiteshark on 4/30/2008 4:40:43 PM , Rating: 2
The guy is from Oklahoma. After living in that hellhole for nearly 2 years, It don't surprise me one bit.

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA

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