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Fairphone 3+: Now with fairer magnets

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We are excited to announce our latest step towards a fairer future: there is now 100% recycled neodymium in our speakers and 90% recycled neodymium in our vibration motor! “That’s great,” I hear you say, “but what is neodymium?”

Neodymium (Nd) is a rare earth, crucial for the magnets we use in our speaker modules and motors. The speaker’s module controls your Fairphone’s audio experience, while the motor is what makes your phone vibrate when you get a call or text. Rare earths, like neodymium, are one of the focus areas we’ve identified as having lots of room for improvement. In order to reach today’s announcement, we had to first build a complete picture of the rare earths supply chain. So, we commissioned a research paper to better understand the challenges, key players and possible routes to more sustainable rare earth sourcing. This study focused especially on the neodymium NdFed magnet supply chain, a key component for industrial machinery, the automotive industry, and electronics and electric equipment, with demand expected to double by 2030.

 

A rare earths mine site pictured from above, revealing the environmental impact.

Against a backdrop of environmental and social damage, poor – and sometimes illegal – working conditions, and resource depletion, the research showed that China remains the main actor in rare earth oxides (REO) production. Other rare earth projects are slowly emerging in Japan, Australia and the United States. Considering the depletion rate of rare earths and our driving desire to transition to a circular economy, the study identified a number of potential strategies to move the sector in a cleaner, fairer direction, including recommending the use of recycled materials.

 

Following this guidance, Fairphone evaluated its neodymium NdFed magnet supply chain and worked with our suppliers to source and use 100% recycled rare earth in our speakers and 90% in our vibration motor.

The potential for change doesn’t stop there; there are more avenues of recycled Nd input to explore. We’re keen to scale up the use of post-consumer recycled Nd – in other words, neodymium fairly and safely recovered from magnets at the end of their useful life. Our research also highlighted other strategies specifically tackling rare earths-associated social and environmental issues. There are many paths forward on our journey to a fairer future: improved waste management in the entire supply chain, better processing techniques, and pushing for international action to shut down illegal mining.

You can read the full summary of the research here >>

Now it’s over to you, dear reader. We’re looking for partners that are interested in exploring the recommended rare earths strategies with us. Reach out, and let’s make the world a little fairer, together: impact.innovation@fairphone.com

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