What's in Your Smartphone?
Escarfuller, Wilda, García, Leani, Americas Quarterly
The Primitive Sources of Your Modern Device
Think that your mobile phone is a modern device? Hardly. While the components and circuitry may be highly technical, the materials that go into it are as old as the earth. And the conditions under which they are extracted-often in remote areas high in the mountains or the desert-are the roots of an industry that has driven the global economy for millennia, and will continue to do so. When you're standing at the edge of an open-pit copper mine, you couldn't feel more removed from the digital world, yet you're just at the beginning of it. What you're holding in your hand is simply the most modern creation from some of the oldest materials in the world, and a lot of history in getting them there. Here are some of the more basic elements that go into our mobile phones, and where they are found in our hemisphere. Data is from 2010 and measured in short tons.
The hemisphere's largest source of silver is in the middle of Mexico, in Fresnillo in the state of Zacatecas. The silver pulled from the ground comes from a mine opened in 1554 when Mexico was a Spanish colony. …