We now live in a world where recycling has become the norm. In fact, if you’re not seen to be trying to re-use something, you are frowned upon by most sections of society. But when it comes to precious metals like gold, is there a recycling process in place? In fact, there is a more structured process than for other metals like aluminium and steel simply because of the value of gold.
Recycling the stuff is a must when the environmental implications of the process of mining are so dire. Toxic chemicals and substances like cyanide and mercury are often used to extract the precious metals during the refining process, and much of this is done in less than ideal and controlled environments.
The precious metal can be found in everyday electronic items like mobile phones, jewellery and watches. Other countries often handle this throw-away junk, but the environments in which they operate have little, or no, health, safety and environmental practices established. However, improvements have been made to standards, and the development of an independent certification system is welcome in the responsible mining communities.
Recycling gold is relatively simple. Determining how much precious metal is contained in a particular item is done using the ‘sorting’ process. This involves placing scrap metal on a scale to determine the exact weight of the gold contained within it. Disassembling and further sorting is then carried out so that the metal is put into the correct type. Any toxic material is extracted for disposal at a later date. Smelting then takes place which involves the heating of the metal past its boiling point so that it turns to liquid. This enables all other metals to be separated. The reformation and re-shaping of the gold takes place and then begins the cooling period where it is weighed and standardised in order to be used again.
Factories then receive the refined metal from gold processing centres to use when required. The refining and packaging process ensures that the gold remains in the same condition as the day it was mined and can be used in your electronic gadgets for a second time.