You may not have realized it, but there are actually tiny amounts of gold in every single one of our electronics. Gold is the only element with the necessary properties (high conductivity and high malleability) that make it an efficient component of microchips.
In fact, gold is the most malleable and ductile metal found on Earth. Its conductivity is only surpassed by copper and silver.
Unfortunately, gold is only required in very small amounts for this purpose, so there's usually not enough precious metal in a computer or smart phone to make recycling that gold a safe or profitable endeavor.
One innovative company may finally be flipping the script when it comes to recovering precious metals from electronic waste (often abbreviated e-waste).
Mining.com recently reported on the small Vancouver firm, EnviroLeach Technologies, that believes it has developed a better way to recover precious metals from e-waste rather than the standard since the late 19th century, which involves using the highly toxic and volatile substance cyanide.
Instead, EnviroLeach uses a proprietary process that involves only water and non-corrosive chemicals, meaning it has far less of a detrimental impact on the environment and public health. The company is setting up a gigantic new plant in Memphis, Tennessee to process mountains of trashed electronics and weed out the precious metal content. Even when done by other methods, this process is known as leaching.
As a testament to the safety and environmentally-friendly nature of this new leaching method, the EnviroLeach CEO told reporters the following in reference to the solution used in the process: "You can put your hand in it; you can effectively drink the stuff."
Leaching only accounts for about 10% of gold extraction in today's mining industry, although it was revolutionary when first introduced in the 1870s. Because this new method eschews the use of acid or cyanide, it's similarly being pitched as potentially revolutionary for the mining industry—not just EnviroLeach's current e-waste recycling project.
Considering that tens of millions of metric tons of electronic waste piles up in landfills each year, this could truly be a worthwhile way of reducing needless waste.
The opinions and forecasts herein are provided solely for informational purposes, and should not be used or construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell any product.