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A New Zealand Company Uses Microorganisms to Mine Gold From Electronics

Marina Maletic

July 18, 2021
Featured image for A New Zealand Company Uses Microorganisms to Mine Gold From Electronics article

Nowadays, more gold can be found in a landfill than in a mine.

Gold extraction from a landfill is a costly and polluting process. Thousands of people, primarily in developing countries, earn a living by burning e-waste to extract copper. This process is detrimental to workers and the environment.

A New Zealand company, Mint Innovation, has found a way to do this that’s better for the environment.

They use microscopic mechanisms that evolved to absorb precious metals.

According to Business Insider, the whole process starts with circus boards that almost any electronic device contains.

Mint makes sure only to use electronics from a local recycler, as they are against exporting waste.

The whole process doesn’t require many workers. There are usually three workers on the floor at any given time, and most importantly, they aren’t exposed to any harmful substances.

While it’s relatively easy to extract copper from electronics with inexpensive chemicals, it’s more challenging to get gold and palladium.

This is where microorganisms come in. Over a couple of hours, the microbiomes absorb precious metals and turn the material that contains gold into a concentrated microbial paste. The paste becomes purple where it contains gold.

Finally, this goes into a refiner, which turns the product into 99.99% gold.

Because gold mines are getting depleted, and the amount of e-waste increases, Mint's goal is to have a company in every major city, so the governments can process e-waste locally and make a profit out of it.

See the video from Business Insider below.

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