minerals in cell phones

Minerals in Cell Phones – What you need to know


In this digital era, mobile phones have become an indispensable part of our lives so much so that we cannot function without them. Start your day with an alarm clock on your phone to fetch a breakfast recipe, and then navigate to the office through the best routes while accessing business emails and calls as you are on the go; our world revolves around our phones!

However, have you ever wondered how these cell phones are made? What are all raw materials used? Does it affect our environment? If yes, how? If you are interested in gauging answers to all these questions, read on and unveil the mystery!

What Minerals Are Found in My Phone?

According to Ken Bayer, CEO of Cloud Blue, an electronics recycling company, “There is more gold in a pound of electronics than a pound of gold ore.” An article published on the BBC website reiterated the statement and reported that one ton of iPhone has 6.5 tons more silver than a ton of silver ore and delivers 300 times more gold than a ton of gold ore.

And this is just the starting point!

Copper, lithium, silica, germanium, bauxite, potassium, tellurium, titanium, cobalt, manganese, and tungsten are other minerals in cell phones. Let’s have a close look at every part of the phone and find what minerals are used in them and what are their function.


Lithium, a soft and light metal, is found in rock and salt lakes and is mined before chemical extraction. Lithium aids in the production of cathodes in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Hence, it is essential to provide power and density to the phone batteries and help them charge. Cadmium, iron, nickel, and diamond are also used in mobile phone batteries.

Argentine, China, Chili, and Australia are the leading producers of lithium.


To add durability and improve the functionality of your phone, several minerals are used in mobile phones to make the casing. These include bromine, chromium, cobalt, fluorine, magnesium, oil shale, titanium, and aluminium.

Cobalt is a blue gemstone, which is used to make lithium-ion batteries. Magnesium has the property to absorb vibrations and shield electromagnetic interference and hence, is an excellent metal for the casing.

Titanium has two times more strength and half the weight than steel, making it suitable for casing.

Circuit boards

A combination of minerals in cell phones results in smooth functioning. These include antimony (great semiconductor), lead (also found in batteries and PVC components), quartz (works as a battery & circuit board conductor), zirconium (also called ‘fools diamond’), tin (a solder), sulphur, strontium, gold & silver (good conductor), manganese (key component), and barium (important component). Every element has a peculiar property, which makes it an ideal component of circuit boards.

Quartz is a gemstone, which works as a battery, power internal clock, and conductor.

Display and touchscreens

Lesser-known minerals, such as zirsilite, yttrium, potassium, salt, mercury, and monazite, are used in the display and touchscreens of your mobile phones.

Potassium helps create the touchscreen glass of the phones, and yttrium is responsible for the production of phosphorous, which results in the lighting of the display screen. When it comes to essential minerals in phones, mercury tops the list as it is found in circuit boards and crystal displays.

Zirsilite contains a key element, cerium, which is used to form touchscreens.


Diamonds are also used to make electrodes in cell phone batteries as they are another form of carbon. To enhance the stability, platinum is used to coat the electrodes.

Lanthanum, tungsten, and zinc are vital role in circuits, speakers, and mobile phone chargers.


Phosphorous is an essential mineral, required to make microprocessors and microchips. Boron and arsenic are also used for microprocessor sand camera chips.

An element in Quartz, silica, is found in the Earth’s crust and is used to make microchips and microprocessors.

Wires and circuitry

Wires and circuitry play an important role in the functioning of the mobile phone. However, if you want to know essential minerals in phone circuitry, beryllium, bismuth, copper, tantalum, and wulfenite would top the charts. These minerals are used to make connections and wires.

Tantalum regulates voltage and is used in wires, connectors, and speakers.

Speakers and Vibration

A rare Earth element, Bastnaesite makes magnets in speakers, vibration motors, and microphones. Wolframite act as a heat sink and aids in mobile phone vibration.

For power amplifiers and radio frequency, Arsenopyrite is used efficiently.

Properties and Applications of Minerals

Have a look at this table and find out the different properties and applications of minerals in cell phones.

Mineral Mineral Source Properties Applications
Germanium Sphalerite Conducts electricity Battery, display, electronics and
circuitry, and vibration components
Graphite Graphite Conducts electricity, resists heat and corrosion,  high
performance-to-weight ratio
Battery anodes
Indium Sphalerite Transparent and conducts electricity Liquid crystal displays
Lithium Amblygonite, petalite, lepidolite,
and spodumene
Chemically reactive, high
performance-to-weight ratio
Battery cathodes
Platinum-group metals More than 100 different minerals Conducts electricity Circuitry, capacitors, and plating.
Potassium Langbeinite, sylvite, and sylvinite Strengthens glass Screen glass
Silicon Quartz Conducts electricity Semiconductors
Silver Argentite and tetrahedrite Conducts electricity Circuitry
Tantalum Columbite and tantalite Stores electrical charge well Capacitors
Tin Cassiterite Transparent and conducts electricity Liquid crystal displays and circuit
board solder
Tungsten Scheelite and wolframite Highly dense and durable for vibrator’s
weight component

Source: United States Geological Survey

Mineral Mining and Its Issues

All these minerals are crucial role in putting together a well-functioning mobile phone, irrespective of the brand. All the minerals used in mobile phones are mined from across the globe, which results in depleting the natural landscapes while exploiting the animal habitat.

For instance, a rare mineral, germanium, is found in the deposits of germanite and is found in China, which produces 70% of this compound. Similarly, potassium is made from orthoclase, which is made from potassium salt found in Russia, Canada, and Belarus.

Certain minerals are categorized as conflict minerals in cell phones. Gold, tin, tantalum, and tungsten are the top 4 conflict minerals, often referred as ‘3TGs’. The term ‘conflict minerals’ came into the picture because of the illegal mining of these minerals in 10 African countries, leading to environmental and human right issues like exploitation, child labour, etc.

These minerals mined in Congo for cell phones have multiple applications and are easy to smuggle. For instance, tantalum is a reliable mineral as it is also used in the automotive and aerospace industry. It is abundant in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and has 70-80% of the world’s reserves.

There is an abundance of minerals in Congo for cell phones. Here’s a brief information about these conflict minerals-


Renowned for its malleable and ductile properties, gold is an excellent thermal and electrical conductor. Because of these properties, it is used in semiconductors, IT, and medical devices.


The world’s largest producer of tungsten is China. It is often used in multiple industries like aerospace, electronics, and automotive because of its high strength and melting point.


Produced in China, Central Africa, and Indonesia, it is often used in electronic products like solders and other components.

According to Statistica, the number of mobile phone devices operating worldwide is expected to be 18.22 billion by 2025. While the usage is on the rise, it is obvious that the manufacturing of cellular phones is in full swing, which means that mineral resources are exploited to the fullest.

The UK’s Centre for Sustainable Mineral Development has also reaffirmed that mineral mining causes all types of problems. Apart from destroying the natural habitat, mineral mining causes loss of biodiversity, contamination of groundwater and soil, soil erosion, and human-wildlife conflict.

The multidimensional causes also include a lack of stringent laws, low accountability, and lack of implementation of existing laws.

How Can We End Mining Minerals for Cell phones?

Although some countries like the UK have strict legislations that stress the importance of waste reduction, there is a long way to go, as we still need to find a sustainable solution to reduce mining. The policies in the UK protect areas like national parks from mining and are making way for the re-development of the sites where mining has finished for conservation and community use.

On the personal front, by choosing recycled, pre-used gadgets, we can reduce mineral depletion to a certain extent. Opting for a refurbished handset or trading your old phone is a significant step to make a difference and control the effect of mining to a certain extent. However, according to Fair Phone, even after recycling, the percentage of products recovered are less than 100%! Hence, there is a long way to go when it comes to finding a solution to this issue, but with small steps and increased awareness, this goal can be achieved!


It is startling how numerous minerals are found in our phones. Each of them has a particular role that contributes significantly to improving the quality of the phone. Whether it is copper, the oldest mined metal in the world, or lithium, which is found in the element state, every mineral used in mobile phones is essential.

That’s why despite facing issues like climate change, deforestation, soil erosion, and loss of biodiversity, minerals continue to play a remarkable role in making a mobile phone. The way forward is to swear by ‘recycling’. Trading your old phones with refurbished phones or recycling the minerals from old phones is a great option to make a difference in supporting the conservation of natural minerals.


You may also like

Post A Comment

Your email address will not be published.