Scientists find gold worth $2 million in Swiss sewage
12 October, 2017, 07:49 | Author: Regina Silva
In addition to gold, it also found 3,000kg of silver lost in the sludge each year - worth around $1.7 million - and concentrations of trace elements like tantalum and germanium often used in the technology and medical sectors. In Switzerland, the researchers found, the small quantities add up - to more than 6,600 pounds of silver and almost 100 pounds of gold, the researchers estimate.
The concentrations of metals in most cases do not harm the environment, according to the study, which was commissioned by Switzerland's Federal Office for the Environment.
In some sites, "concentrations of gold in sewage sludge are sufficiently high for recovery to be potentially worthwhile", the scientists say. This can be attributed to the presence of several gold refineries in the region.
"The recovery of metals from wastewater or sludge is scarcely worthwhile at present, either financially or in terms of the amounts which could be extracted", the study said. For example, the total aluminium and copper fluxes are equivalent, respectively, to only 0.2 and just under 4 per cent of annual Swiss imports. The USGS has explored ways to remove potentially risky metals from treated sewage that is used as fertilizer and also pursued the possibility of extracting valuable metals from wastewater as a potentially profitable resource.
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The report says the study focused primarily on the fluxes and mass balances, rather than recovery value.
The discovery was made after researchers studied 64 water treatment plants in Switzerland.
Scientists have struck gold in an unlikely place: Swiss sewage and waste water treatment plants.
Swiss scientists have found that 43kg of gold worth about $1.8 million is passing through Switzerland's wastewater each year, as first spotted by Bloomberg.
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