A new method of extracting minerals such as gold from ore could be adapted to recovering metals from old office electronics, reports Greenbiz. The new technology could ease the recycling of old and obsolete computers, smart phones, and other electronic equipment in a more environmentally benign manner.
Currently, mining companies use cyanide to extract precious metals from ore. Of course, cyanide is a deadly chemical and has to be used in an extremely controlled operation. The new method, developed by a Canadian company called EnviroLeach Technologies, uses five chemicals, combined with water, which are benign to the environment and approved by the FDA. The new technology operates at ambient temperatures and avoids high-pressure, air filtration, and other systems that must be used with the cyanide-based system.
A company called Jabril, which revealed a strategic partnership with EnviroLeach, is adapting the new process to extract metals from old electronics. The company has built a facility in Memphis to recycle materials from what is called “e-waste,” old electronic circuit boards that have been thrown away.
The proliferation of e-waste has become something of a problem, with only eight percent being recycled and the rest winding up in landfills. However, the profit motive and the advance of recycling technology are likely to change this. Global Industry Analysts estimates that e-waste recycling will become a $33.4 billion business by 2022.
Gold was the original product that the EnviroLeach process is focused on. However, the process could be eventually used to extract other materials, such as copper. Hitherto, acid was used to extract metals from old electronics, but that process was not economically sustainable and certainly not environmentally benign. The new process may fit both criteria, especially as many governments have started to ban the use of cyanide and other toxic substances in metal extraction operations.
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