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Has gold mining made a comeback through e-waste?

Posting in Energy

Think gold mining, think rivers or inside the depths of mountains. But what about the mountains we create and discard?

Rare earth materials are in high demand due to the use of such minerals in gadgets worldwide, and countries such as China are under pressure to increase export quotas to cope with high demand. The more lucrative the market, the more work for miners -- but a new breed of worker doesn't have to dig too deep.

Through its mining subsidiary GTSO Resources, Green Technology Solutions among other firms are working towards capitalizing on such high demand. From iPads to wind turbines, rare earth materials including gold, tungsten, neodymium and indium are necessary -- but once an item is no longer of use, it often ends up on the scrapheap.

Why don't firms 'recycle' this electronic trash?

GTSO is one of many companies turning towards e-waste to reclaim some of these rare materials and looking at more sustainable manufacturing options. Sorting, processing and reusing may help lessen the dependency on countries like China that control so much of the rare element market, as well as potentially improve the environmental problems associated with discarding gadgets.

"We believe we've struck gold inside of a cellphone," said GTSO CEO Paul Watson. "There are hundreds of thousands of tons of gold, tungsten, neodymium, indium and other valuable elements trapped in mountains of electronic trash at the moment. As prices continue to soar -- and they will -- we think there's a significant profit to be made reclaiming these metals."

The global e-waste recycling and reuse services market is expected to be worth an estimated $18.2 billion, according to Transparency Market Research.

Image credit: Flickr

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— By on October 16, 2012, 4:32 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure