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How is Gold Recycled

Anuja Marathe Kanhere
Gold is a highly precious and scarce metal. Here is how gold can be recycled and used over and over again.
For centuries together, gold has been mined around the world. One needs to accumulate and process approximately 20 tons of gold ore to get approximately 10 gm of pure 24 carat gold.
With the ratio of total gold produced against the total tons of ore mined is extremely low, it is natural to expect a high level of expenditure towards gold mining. This prompts one to search for alternate sources to generate gold supply and one of main source happens to be recycling. Here are some ways to recycle gold.

Technique of Recycling Gold

Almost 80% of existing gold is in form of gold jewelry, bars and nuggets along with a minuscule quantity in electronic parts and dental fillings. However, most of the people hesitate to part with their personal gold jewelry or antique family heirlooms.
So the only option left open is to recycle gold used in electronic gadgets. However, with increasing use of miniature electronic technologies, the amount of gold per electronic gadgets happens to be very low. Moreover, it is in an alloy form that makes gold recycling a very tedious job.
Now let us understand the stepwise procedure for smelting and recycling gold.

Accumulating Unwanted Gold

The first and foremost step is to accumulate unwanted gold items like jewelry, old gold watches, gold wires and electronic fittings etc. Make sure to weigh these items before you go ahead with procedure

Assess Gold Content

It is possible for experts to judge the purity of gold that they are assessing. Pure 24 carat gold is extremely soft. Often, gold is mixed with other metals like nickel, silver or copper to harden it so that it can me molded to a perfect shape. However, it is possible to segregate these minerals from pure gold during the smelting process.

Smelting Process

All the accumulated gold items are now deposited into a well heated smelting furnace. The melting point of gold is usually 1064.43 °C or 1337.5801 K or 1947.9741 °F. At this time, it is possible for the smelters to separate the other metals used for hardening purposes from the pure gold by using nitric acid.
The metals thus separated from pure gold are gathered in a sludge. As the gold liquefies, the smelter will start setting up molds for making gold bricks or gold chips. Gold is highly ductile in nature. Therefore, it can also be converted into a wire form.
The smelter now pours the melted gold into the molds and sets them to cool off. He may also make nuggets of other metals used for making alloys.

Gold Bars and Chips

The gold that hardens in the mold is 24 carat pure gold. These bars and chips are now weighed so that they can be accurately priced. These gold bars and chips are now stamped with certain code numbers and their weigh in ounces. The gold bars thus obtained can either be stored away safely or they can be supplied to jewelry makers for reuse.

Reasons for Gold Recycling

  • Gold mining has been a major cause of soil erosion in many countries, due to rampant deforestation for mining purposes. This has affected the natural habitat and climatic conditions in gold mining areas to a great extent. Considering all these factors, the only solution to save the environment is to recycle the existing gold in our possession.
  • The mining process itself requires usage of harmful mercury and cyanide, which are then disposed by draining them into nearby water resources like lakes and rivers. A report generated shows that the total mercury pollution from mercury mining and hazardous waste collection is not even equal to 50% of the total mercury pollution generated from gold mining. 
Mercury pollution can cause some unbecoming genetic changes in human beings and animals residing the areas of gold mining. These genetic changes are passed down through heredity to future generations as well.
Gold recycling is an evergreen business that generates excellent profits for the recyclers. With the ever and introduction of latest recycling technologies, this business will never die.