Host an Urban Mining Workshop


Fairphone invites you to grab your helmets and put on your safety goggles because we’re going urban mining. We’ve been conducting Urban Mining Workshops and they’ve been such a success, that we want to pass the tools over to you. Our Urban Mining Manual is now available for free download. Get ready, it’s your turn to lead this eye-opening workshop and learn how fun and interesting dismantling your phone can be. But before you get your tools in a twist and start digging, let’s delve deeper into the exciting concept of urban mining.

It’s what’s inside that counts

Fairphone is a company producing a smartphone and creating a movement to inspire the electronics industry to look at social and environmental issues in the supply chain. We want to drive change at every stage of the value chain, from sourcing to manufacturing, design to recycling. This workshop is a hands on introduction to the issues at the heart of both mining and the life cycle of your mobile phone. The wise Oscar Wilde once wrote that “nowaday, people know the price of everything and the value of nothing” – and I couldn’t agree more. To understand the real value of a product, we believe that you need to begin with understanding where it comes from and who made it.

The first step to understanding your electrical product is understanding what’s inside it. What better way than to open it up and take a peek yourself!

In the workshop you’ll learn that behind the screen of your mobile phone, lie over 30 different non-renewable minerals (Source: Basel Convention Guidance Document on the Environmentally Sound Management of Used and End-of-life Mobile Phones). The uncomfortable truth is that some of these minerals are mined in conditions that are damaging the environment and the people who mine them. Human exploitation often occurs in conflict areas, where mines and mineworkers have been controlled by armed forces who use the profits made from the mines to finance their armies. Once a mobile phone has reached its end-of-life, we too easily discard of it, adding to the mounting masses of electronic waste (e-waste). This workshop will show that if we handle and dismantle our non-functioning devices in the right way, many of the materials inside can be recycled and re-used, lowering the social and environmental footprint left behind by the phone.


Refining tin to tin powder which will later be turned into soldering paste for phones, DR Congo

Our urban mine

Urban mining is the extraction of minerals from existing products. The aim is to dismantle gadgets that have reached their end-of-life to uncover what’s within. Whether a car, a laptop or a toaster, cities are so filled to the brim with electrical devices, that we could even consider a city as a modern mine site.

Our workshop is designed to open up one particular little friend of yours. One who used to live in your pocket and who is probably now sitting abandoned in your drawer- your old, nonworking mobile phone. Here’s the deal.

We’ve put together the necessary instructions for you to take apart old mobile phones in either a classroom, workplace or as a great hangout idea with a group of pals.

You can freely download the Urban Mining Manual from the Library page. All you need are the tools and a bunch of old phones. So, are you ready to explore your old phone’s contents?

Fairphone: Host Your Own Urban Mining Workshop!

How to organize your Urban Mining Workshop

Our team have designed a Leader’s Guide and a Miner’s Guide so you can lead the practical workshop to any group of your choice. It’s designed for you to tailor it to the level of your group. In this lesson you’ll be digging for two minerals: tin and tantalum. We produced the Fairphone using conflict-free tin and tantalum that we’re able to trace to its source, so we decided these minerals were a good place to start.

The Leader’s Guide has all the practical information you’ll need, from the required tools, the expected time it’ll take, the necessary safety precautions and step-by-step instructions on how to get down and do it. The manual is also decked out with a glossary of important terminology.


Urban Mining Manuals being used

Uncovering the phone’s hidden stories

We expect you’ll bump into a few surprises along the way, as our phones contain valuable and even precious materials.

Once you’ve unscrewed the back cover, and identified the components, the workshop aims to unravel some of the phone’s hidden stories.

From pollution and extremely dangerous working conditions to child labor, we learn that a number of mining-related practices desperately require improvement. At Fairphone, we work to source conflict-free minerals and see it as the first step to provide alternatives to current mining practices to empower workers and improve the livelihoods of the local population.

During the workshop, you’ll see that your phone is quite the traveller. In fact, you have the world in your pocket. From the DR Congo, to China, to Europe and places in between, your old phone made an international journey to be brought to life. The workshop aims to uncover the complexity of the supply chain and the related issues, opening up a dialogue on our role as consumers.

Once the phone has been opened inside and out, materials can be dropped off at your local recycling point for safe disposal (see our list of local recyclers). You’ll discover the current challenges that we’re faced with when phones reach the end of their usable life. When electrical devices are dumped in landfills, they release dangerous fumes that can have alarming effects on those exposed to them. To address this problem, we developed the Fairphone Recycling Program as well as other projects in Life Cycle area that aim to extend the lifespan of your mobile phone because the longer a phone lasts, the less waste it creates and the fewer resources it requires.


Urban Mining Workshop with KPN Young Talents at Waag Society, Amsterdam, Jan 2014

What can you do to change how things are made?

Asides from organizing an Urban Mining Workshop, there are many actions that we as consumers can take to push towards a fairer economic models.

Download the Urban Mining Manual

You can freely download the Urban Mining Manual from our website. Once you’ve completed the workshop, we would really like to hear how it went so send your feedback to We’ve opened a forum discussion for you to ask questions and contribute your impressions and remember to snap pictures of your urban mining group to share with the community on #WeAreFairphone. Happy mining!

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