.. This report warns that trillions of dollars could be at risk if there is a 
bottleneck in the supply of Critical Raw Materials (CRMs). It explores in depth 
the shaky foundations that underpin this house of cards …

Here are some key findings:

- Highly polluting and often toxic CRMs lie at the heart of our current swipe 
lifestyle and drive smartphone  touch, feel, sound and vision
-  Of the 70+ elements found in a phone, at least 14 are key to the interactive 
core; 9 of these are rare earths but almost all are considered critical by the 
EU Commission because risks of their supply shortage & their impacts are higher.

- There are 20 CRMs. China has outstanding WTO disputes for 2 out of 3 of these 
with the EU, US, Japan & Mexico
- There are no effective substitutes for many of these and they are 
overwhelmingly sourced from China  - indium (44%), antimony (76%), tungsten 
(82%), light rare earths (87%), heavy rare earths (99%)Each smartphone, like 
the iPhone 6  can include up to 16 of the 17 rare earth elements, which makes 
brands complicit to the global black market given the lack of a responsible 
sourcing platform and traceability of these minerals. 1 kg of rare earths can 
produce 1-1.4kg of radioactive waste

- Previous pollution issues from antimony, indium and rare earths have caused 
price spikes. China is currently carrying the cost of pollution; rare earth 
remediation costs in a key producing region is USD29/kg, whereas China exports 
are only worth USD7/kg

- In addition, China is running out of proven reserves and is looking for more 
at home & abroad and there are hard caps on tungsten and rare earth production. 
China’s rare earth imports have increased 11.6x since 2012 and we project the 
ex-China demand gap can be as much as 70,000 tonnes by 2020. It is unclear who 
will supply the rest of the world given that China is also securing reserves by 
stepping up acquisitions of global sources.

- The report warns that as China says no to pollution and yes to a high tech 
future, transitional risks are abound. These can have profound impacts across 
industries. Smartphone brands’ current no-sense strategies from low recycling 
rates, built-in obsolescence and poor repairability only serve to compound 
these risks.

According to the report, a convergence of risks is hidden in plain sight. China 
is gearing up to be “future ready” by securing world CRM supplies, building a 
circular economy and cleaning up pollution. Are you?

Full Report: 
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