Iphones and cutting tools - make the most of them because they might not be around forever
Iphones and cutting tools: a strange combination, but both use rare metals that are rapidly depleting

Do you like drill bits and iPhones? The British Geological Survey (BGS) has warned that several metals used commonly in batteries, tools and hi-tech gadgets are at risk of global depletion if new sources are not found.

Pointing to the recent fervour over the iPhone 5 and Windows 8 smartphones, the British Geological Survey found that rare earth metals top the “Metals Risk List 2012”. Also near the top of the list is the tungsten used in many cutting tools, the antimony used in lead-acid batteries and the platinum group metals used in catalytic converters in road vehicles.

If the production and supply of iPhones and D.I.Y tools is to continue in years to come, greener production technologies and more cost-effective recycling are required, as well as new resources, said the BGS.

Andrew Bloodworth, head of Minerals and Waste at BGS, said: “We need to diversify supplies of some metals, especially those critical in delivering a low-carbon economy and digital technologies, by finding new resources from the Earth, recycling more and doing more with less.”

The BGS’ research also confirmed the often-voiced fears of industrialists and governments about the dominance of China in the production of rare earth metals. China is the leading global producer of 22 of the 41 elements in the risk list. Furthermore, increased global demand for rare metals is being driven by the emerging economies in Asia and South America, said the BGS.

The risk list was first introduced in 2011 by the BGS.


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