Recovering Precious Metals From Waste

August 18th, 2016 by

Small-scale gold recycling

Small-scale gold recycling

The idea of extracting precious metals from waste sounds like a brilliant enterprise in theory. Most commonly, this is done with recycling scrap gold or broken electronics (which contain small amounts of gold in their components).

One company thinks it has finally found a nontoxic way of extracting precious metal content from electronic waste (e-waste).

Nontoxic Breakthrough

The process of recycling gold, silver, platinum, or palladium from electronics, scrap jewelry, or even just the metal ore is not in itself a revolutionary scientific or technological advancement. It’s done with considerable regularity. (There’s no reason to waste a precious commodity, after all.)

poisonHowever, most of this is done with solutions or formulas that primarily contain cyanide. Anyone who’s ever seen a made-for-TV murder mystery knows that cyanide is a very toxic substance. It’s even banned in many parts of the world. Environmental watchdog groups have voiced grievances about the destructive effect that cyanide can have on wastewater seeping into the water supply when it is used in gold recycling.

Moreover, cyanide is fairly inefficient for these purposes, requiring a slow and gradual process that lasts several hours. Typically, however, it separates and preserves about 97% of the recycled precious metal content.

Now, a mineral processing company called Mineworx, a subsidiary of Iberian Minerals (IML), believes it has found a safer alternative for recovering precious metals from scrap or waste. Further, its methods are actually faster—more efficient—and more cost-effective. What might require four hours with cyanide can be accomplished in under an hour with the new HM X-leach formula.

How It Works

old-video-cardAccording to, “Mineworx’s formula is made of food-grade, organic ingredients and is recyclable.” This special solution is used in a range of different extraction methods from carbon absorption and precipitation to electrowinning (also known as electroextraction). This process actually uses leaching (refining metal from a liquid solution) and large-scale electroplating to deposit the pure metal being extracted from the leaching solution to a cathode. Interestingly, electrowinning is actually the oldest electrolytic process that has been introduced by industry.

Due to the fact that cyanide-based extraction is banned in many countries, the HM X-leach formula holds the potential to expand precious metal recycling efforts to previously untapped markets.

Other Recycling Methods

These new discoveries by Mineworx are similar to the recent breakthrough by the British street sweeping firm, Veolia. The company has found a way to recycle non-negligible amounts of platinum and palladium that breaks off from car exhausts in small particles. Each year in the U.K., the debris on the streets adds up to over 1 tonne of each metal! Over time, enough of this precious metal gets deposited onto streets to make its recovery worthwhile—and Veolia sees no reason why it should simply be discarded.

recycle-earth-white-backgroundThe upshot of both the efforts of Veolia and Mineworx is that they are not only offering environmentally-friendly solutions to precious metal recycling, but also are providing innovative uses for science and technology that make good business sense. It is far cheaper, for instance, to extract precious metals from street sweepings than from rocky ore. For both companies, the bang-for-your-buck is another exciting factor.


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.