“Come to my mobile phone event, it’s going to be ‘smashing – and yes folks, that’s a clue!” was my pitch at the BGS Open Day in Keyworth back in June. A friend of mine, Ed Collard, filmed the event and the movie (well YouTube video) is just out: http://youtu.be/i9Uk37PaSc8.
As a minerals geologist at the BGS one of the more interesting concepts we work with is that of critical raw materials, especially metals – so called because of their economic importance and high risk of supply shortage. An event focusing on this for the Open Day would help to explain what this is and why it is not as worrying as it sounds. It would also highlight the minerals work of the BGS. Also, being a closet show off I would get to have an audience and applause….
I prepared thoroughly and even rehearsed the day before. I had a stock of old mobile phones that were surplus to requirements, a hammer and plenty of other props! On the day I repeated my event 5 times (it was only 20 minutes long) and here is the photographic evidence….
I explained that mobile phones contain a lot of different elements with metals being an important part and that geologists take part in mineral exploration to find deposits of metal-bearing ore.
Once we have found the ore we dig it out of the ground, process it to extract the minerals and then smelt them to produce metal such as gold.
One possible solution to a shortage of readily available metals would be to recover them from old mobile phones and that would start with breaking them up.
The end product of a day of talking about critical metals and how we might recover them from mobile phones!
As a final note, we are not going to run out of raw materials such as critical metals anytime soon. Our capacity to produce them however is another matter with production concentrated in a few countries – see the BGS Risk List to learn more. In the meantime, we will continue our search for new sources of raw materials and as we say around these parts “If it can’t be grown, it has to be mined!”