Used Cell Phones from the Ocean

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Last updated April 12, 2019

The elements needed to make used cell phones can be found in abundance on the ocean floor, according to Japanese scientists.  A report in the “Nature Geoscience” journal says that key materials from modern electronic items such as cell phones, flat screen televisions and laptop computers can be found on the sea bed.
Yasuhiro Kato and other researchers from Japan’s University of Tokyo surveyed 78 locations on the floor of the Pacific Ocean and found them rich in concentrations of the metal yttrium ad other rare earth elements.  “We estimate that an area of just one square kilometer, surrounding one of the sampling sites, could provide one fifth of the current annual world consumption of these elements,” the scientists claim.  Kato and his fellows also suggest that it also might not even be that hard to extract the elements from the ocean floor and put them to use.  “We show that rare earth elements and yttrium are readily recovered from the mud by simple acid leeching, and suggest that deep sea mud constitutes a highly promising huge resource for these elements.”
Given that no less than 97 per cent of the current market for rare earth elements come from China, the news could be very interesting indeed, though Nicola Jones, a journalist on, suggests that mining the sea may not be as easy as Kato and his fellows might wish to think.  “People talk about mining on the asteroids or the moon,” she notes.  “This isn’t that hard, but it’s similar.”