Spinning Garbage into Gold: An Alternative to Mining?


Construction of the Efemçukuru project, a gold-mining operation near İzmir, Turkey. Photo via Eldorado Gold Corp.

Environmentalists in Turkey have had mixed results in their efforts to fight gold-mining operations, which often use cyanide to extract the precious metal and contaminate local water supplies. The İzmir municipality halted construction of Eldorado Gold's Efemçukuru project, only to have the high court in Ankara give the company the go-ahead to continue. But recent news from Japan suggests that mining companies themselves might be better off looking for gold elsewhere--not in the ground, but in the garbage.
Reuters reports that a Japanese sewage-treatment facility has recorded 1,890 grammes of gold per tonne of ash from incinerated sewage sludge, far higher than the gold-to-ore ratio netted by the Hishikari Mine in Kagoshima Prefecture, considered one of the world's top gold mines.

The bonanza is likely a side effect of local computer and other electronic-equipment manufacturers using gold in their production processes--and then sending their industrial wastewater to the domestic sewage plant. Which means there are probably a lot of nasty metals, acids, and solvents in the sewage too.

Of course, industry should be treating and removing these substances before they discharge them into the public sewage system, but the finding makes one wonder anew if we could minimize the need for mining by doing better cleanup at the source of electronics production and better recycling at the end of our gadgets' lifespans. Perhaps even the mining companies themselves could get a better return by sponsoring Turkey's nascent e-waste recycling efforts instead of digging into its landscape. Via: "Sewage yields more gold than top mines," Reuters

More about mining, in the ground and in the garbage:
Could Garbage Be America's #1 Resource?
Landfill Mining, the Next Boom Industry?
Urban Mining: The Hunt For Rare Metals
Poraver Takes Garbage Glass and Turns It Into Useful Stuff
No Dirty Gold: Jewelry Retailers Urge End to "Dirty" Mining

Tags: E-Waste | Japan | Pollution | Recycling | Turkey | Waste

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