Japan To 'Urban Mine' Gold, Silver for 2020 Tokyo Olympics Medals
Wednesday August 24, 2016 12:29
(Kitco News) - With the Rio Olympics now in the rearview, athletes are setting their eyes on the new prize: the 2020 Tokyo Olympic gold medal.
However, what they might not know is that the gold in those medals might be sourced from recycled Japanese smartphones and gadgets.
According to Nikkei Asian Review, the Japanese are looking to “urban mine” their way into making the next Olympic prizes and are hoping the private sector and governments will help facilitate the sustainable move.
"We need a system that makes it easy for consumers to turn in used consumer electronics," Takeshi Kuroda, president of ReNetJapan Group, told Nikkei Tuesday.
The Asia-focused online publisher noted that Japan threw out about 143kg of gold, 1,566 kg of silver and 1,122 tons of copper from electronics in 2014. At current precious metals prices, that amounts to about $6.1 million worth of gold and $935,000 of silver. Moreover, the gold and silver content in small consumer electronics in Japan alone is equivalent to 16% and 22% of the world’s total reserves, respectively.
However, a proper recycling system needs to be put in place in order for the Olympic Committee to exploit the precious metals in them.
Every year, it is estimated that 650,000 tons of small electronics and electric home appliances are thrown out and less than 15% is recycled, the Nikkei post explained. What’s more, the gold and silver content that is actually being recycled is already being re-used to make new electronics, making it uncertain whether there will be enough for the Olympic medals.
Although it is uncertain how much gold, silver and copper will be needed for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Kitco News found that the Brazilian Mint used almost 172 ounces of gold for 812 Rio Olympic gold medals; at the same time, more than 1.6 tonnes of silver were used in the gold medals and the 812 silver medals.
The Brazilian Mint could not specify where the metal content was sourced, but it is reported that the gold and silver in Olympic medals has usually come from donations made by mining companies. If Japan succeeds, future Olympic medals will not need to rely on donations from miners and instead may encourage a sustainable move towards urban mining.