Post-consumer electronic waste contains a large range of valuable elements that can potentially be recycled.  An analysis by the UN e-waste coalition reports that 7% of the world’s gold reserve may be contained in e-waste and there is 100x more gold in a tonne of smart phones compared to a tonne of gold ore, leading to increasing interest in ‘urban mining’ to recover and recycle it.

Researchers at The University of Queensland (UQ) have developed a hydrometallurgical process for leaching gold from electronic waste (such as printed circuit boards) and then collecting the gold by electrodepositing it onto electrodes.

Compared to other leaching processes, the process is highly selective for gold and leaching is fast, ensuring rapid processing.  Compared to smelting, capex and operating costs are both low, and modular plant construction can be scaled according to the size of the incoming waste stream.

Key features

  • Highly selective for gold; other metals can also be recovered
  • Low cost, modular plant design allows easy facility scaling
  • Clean process – most leachate recycled.

 

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