Archivo de la etiqueta: Minerals

The dystopian lake filled by the world’s tech lust

From where I’m standing, the city-sized Baogang Steel and Rare Earth complex dominates the horizon, its endless cooling towers and chimneys reaching up into grey, washed-out sky. Between it and me, stretching into the distance, lies an artificial lake filled with a black, barely-liquid, toxic sludge.

Dozens of pipes line the shore, churning out a torrent of thick, black, chemical waste from the refineries that surround the lake. The smell of sulphur and the roar of the pipes invades my senses. It feels like hell on Earth.

Welcome to Baotou, the largest industrial city in Inner Mongolia. I’m here with a group of architects and designers called the Unknown Fields Division, and this is the final stop on a three-week-long journey up the global supply chain, tracing back the route consumer goods take from China to our shops and homes, via container ships and factories.

You may not have heard of Baotou, but the mines and factories here help to keep our modern lives ticking. It is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of “rare earth” minerals. These elements can be found in everything from magnets in wind turbines and electric car motors, to the electronic guts of smartphones and flatscreen TVs. In 2009 China produced 95% of the world’s supply of these elements, and it’s estimated that the Bayan Obo mines just north of Baotou contain 70% of the world’s reserves. But, as we would discover, at what cost?

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‘Nuevo cada año’: ¿A qué huele lo nuevo?

Texto escrito por el Grupo de electrónica ética de Ingeniería Sin Fronteras

Circula por ese mundo que nos bombardea consciente o inconscientemente, al que llamamos publicidad, una nueva campaña de la operadora Vodafone, que ofrece la posibilidad de cambiar de móvil cada año. En el anuncio en cuestión, nos hablan de la fascinación que siente el ser humano por la novedad, centrándose especialmente en el olor a nuevo.

Quizás podría sonar exagerado o sensacionalista decir que el olor a un nuevo smartphone también es olor a sangre, pero teniendo en cuenta las condiciones de vida de los trabajadores de la minería del coltán, en gran medida africanos (50% Republica Democrática del Congo 15% Zambia)1, o las evidencias del uso de explotación infantil en la extracción de este y otros metales, como el estaño2, no seríamos en ningún caso injustos al sostener tal afirmación.

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The Price of Precious

The minerals in our electronic devices have bankrolled unspeakable violence in the Congo.

Photographs by Marcus Bleasdale

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‘Urban gold mining’ worth more than real mines

By | July 9, 2012, 9:53 AM PDT

Gold mining today bears little resemblance to the iconic images of California’s gold rush in the mid-1800s. This is what a gold mine looks like: an open pit mine with giant earth movers in search of the 10 grams of gold per ton in a typical mine.

But there’s a type of mining that’s worth more than these land-transforming mining techniques. It’s called “urban mining.” Generally, it means reusing waste from urban materials. But in this case it means mining the precious metals from discarded electronics, or e-waste.

These “deposits” of e-waste contain precious metals “40 to 50 times richer than ores mined from the ground,” according to a report from the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) and United Nations University. And with 320 tons of gold and more than 7,500 tons of silver used to create more electronics each year, the value alone from those two precious metals is $21 billion.

But what’s troubling is that only 15% of these valuable metals are recovered from e-waste in both developing and developed countries.

“More sustainable consumption patterns and material recycling are essential if consumers continue to enjoy high-tech devices that support everything from modern communications to smart transport, intelligent buildings and more,” said Luis Neves, Chairman of GeSI, in a statement.

There appears to a big opportunity for an entrepreneur out there to make a lot of money and run a business that has sustainability at its core.

Maybe some mining companies will consider jumping ship.

Photo: Flickr/takomabibelot

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