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Odd Sources of Gold – Cell Phones

Gold is used in the manufacture of cell phones. Because of its highly desirable qualities of extreme malleability and conductivity, gold is often used to make the circuitry and other bits that comprise a variety of technical gadgets. But is it possible to “mine” cell phones for the gold? Technically, yes, but it’s not an easy task.

There’s plenty of precious metal to be had from large volumes of old cell phones, if one were able to efficiently harvest from the cell phones’ plastic, metal and glass casings. Just one metric ton of cell phones can yield as much as 280 grams of gold (9 troy ounces!), plus about that same amount of platinum, palladium and copper. That probably sounds great in theory. But think of it another way: it would take around 24 million cell phones to get 1/2 ton of gold. How would anyone manage to profitably obtain and process that many cell phones?

And safety is a large concern. Unless one had an operation solely devoted to recycling cell phones in a controlled environment, this kind of endeavor is likely not feasible. The controlled environment is particularly critical because manufacturing cell phones requires the use of toxic chemicals in various processes. What goes into these phones during production will come out during “deconstruction” and the risks are great in terms of possible human and environmental harm from exposure to those chemicals.

Given the highly specialized nature of extracting and recycling precious metals from cell phones, that’s not an area we focus on at Manhattan Gold & Silver. But it’s still a fascinating topic of conversation and an amazing testament to the value and odd uses of precious metals in everyday objects.

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