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Urban Mining: The Search for Rare Earth Elements

Written By Luke Burgess

Posted October 25, 2010

Last month, China put a temporary ban on exports of rare earth elements to Japan, a vital resource to the country’s high-tech industry.

Japan is beginning to actively pursue the recycling of e-waste in a new process called “urban mining” to mitigate the country’s dependence on China for the metals.

Urban mining is the recycling of obsolete or outdated electronics for metals including precious, base, and rare earth elements. These electronics include computers, televisions, cell phones, printers, PDAs, and thousands of other devices commonly used in offices, homes, and by people on the go.

Urban mining can be a very profitable business. A tonne of cell phones, for example, contains more gold than a tonne of ore from a typical gold mine.

An average gold mine produces 5 grams of gold per tonne of rock whereas cell phones contain 150 grams per tonne or more.

In addition, a tonne of cell phones contains 100 kilograms of copper and 3 kilograms of silver, as well as other valuable metals—all of which have been soaring in price.

In the video clip below, Reuters reports on a new push for the urban mining of rare earth elements in Japan:

Good Investing,


Luke Burgess
Editor, Wealth Daily
Investment Director, Hard Money Millionaire and Underground Profits