Traditional mining is carried out underground, i.e. city or urban mining is carried out above the earth’s surface, by extracting materials from telephones, batteries, chargers and other e-waste. This form of mining can create more value and has a higher return on investment than traditional mining. E-waste has up to 100 times higher concentration of precious metals than natural ore, e.g. the ratio of the amount of elemental gold in waste mobile phones to the amount of gold in the same mass of gold ore is 100: 1. In addition, extraction from ore requires crushing, mineral processing, hydrometallurgy and pyrometallurgy processes, and leaching.
E-waste collected past official collection routes (separately at utility collection centers, at electronics retailers, in street bins, or in mobile collection campaigns) is usually disposed of in landfills or incinerated. However, we can extract precious metals from them and thus reduce our carbon footprint.
Urban mining is thus becoming an important industry. The growing amount of e-waste enables the growth of the number of companies, including start-ups, engaged in the recycling of e-waste. There is also a growing awareness of consumers who want to recycle their e-waste instead of just disposing of it. However, the positive effects of urban mining are not only environmental, as this approach can reduce conflicts in mineral-rich regions (eg the DRC).