Precious metals being salvaged from hi-tech waste

Precious metals being salvaged from hi-tech waste

June 15, 2012 322 view(s)

While it is certainly not the first time that the idea of extracting precious metals from used computer components has circulated in the media, a recent article suggests that in certain parts of the world, this can be quite a popular endeavor. As an emerging economy, India has many businesses that are looking to set new standards. They are trying things that might be slower to accomplish in more developed nations, such as extracting silver and other reusable valuable metals from older model circuit boards. For some, the question is, "why buy gold when they can extract it from what would otherwise be trash clogging up landfills?"

The article in question profiled a company in Bangalore called E-Parisaraa, who works with a number of other companies to handle electronics that are being thrown away. Close to 300 companies currently work with E-Parisaraa. The company handles their waste and then processes it to extract small quantities of both gold and silver, which it can then sell for a substantial profit. In addition to computers, the company handles fax machines, cartridges, cell phones, printers, audio and video equipment, microwaves, telephones and much more.

The economics of refining this type of material carefully enough to be able to extract useful quantities of precious metals is often not incentive enough for those in more developed nations. Tons of computer and electronics scraps are often needed to produce even a small benefit, experts say. This is why most operations looking to extract gold or silver will also be using other aspects of the scrap, as well.

A cursory look through online forums where people discuss gold recovery, shows that many people have considered trying this at home. The rational is simple; why buy gold to invest in when it can be recovered from scraps freely obtained? The answer, scientists point out, is that the process for extracting gold, silver or even palladium is incredibly dangerous to human health. In addition, if extreme precautions are not taken, the toxins released while scrapping such parts can create an environmental hazard that is not worth the potential benefits.

Some sources indicate that in order to obtain just 400 grams of gold, more than a ton of computer circuit boards would need to be refined. While experts such as Bangalore's E-Parisaraa may be able to create jobs by having this type of extraction as part of their overall service, the days of it becoming big business elsewhere in the world are most likely a long way off.

What this news means to some observers however, is that there is hope for places such as those in Africa where hi-tech waste is often shipped and sifted through by individuals who are not trained in refining the scrap. There, the health hazards have seriously injured and even killed some who believed that the gold they could extract would help get them out of dire poverty. Instead of doing it on their own, these people could be taught to work in a safe facility where precious metals are extracted without risk to human health or the environment. Reusing electronic components could become more common place and a great deal of global waste could be eliminated in the process. That is something that precious metals fans around the world could certainly applaud.