The secret life of your mobile phone: metal supply and digital devices.
Andrew Bloodworth, Science Director for Minerals and Waste, British Geological Survey
Up until the mid 20th Century, very few metallic elements in the periodic table had any practical use. Since then, mankind has broadened its pallet of useful metals enormously to take in so-called ‘rare’ or ‘critical’ or ‘exotic’ or ‘technology’ materials, including rare earth elements, platinum group elements and others, from beryllium to zirconium. This expansion has been pulled along by the development of new digital technologies and their almost magical appeal to billions of consumers across the globe. This talk uses the ubiquitous mobile phone to illustrate the importance of these metals and to explore issues around supply security and ‘criticality’. This will include a look at ideas related to metal supply from geological and other sources, and may challenge some commonly-held assumptions relating to non-renewable mineral resources and physical scarcity. It will also look at the human factors that influence metal availability and the environmental limits to our conspicuous consumption of these vital raw materials.