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Will microbes be the new e-scrap gold diggers?

Author:Zhengyang MachineryTimes:2019-08-26
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New Zealand’s Mint Innovation has unveiled what it describes as ‘the world’s first e-scrap bio-refinery’, a facility using micro-organisms to recover precious metals from electronic waste. The company’s technology combines chemistry and biology to offer a local solution for cities or regions.

‘Gold, palladium and copper will be the first key metals to be extracted from e-scrap in a couple of weeks,’ announces Mint Innovation’s ceo Dr Will Barker. ‘Our bio-refinery uses micro-organisms to scavenge precious metals from complex waste streams,’ he explains. ‘It is cyanide-free and the process streams themselves are recycled, providing an environmentally responsible solution for the particularly noxious waste stream.’

Attractive feedstock

‘The world has an electronic waste problem that is compounded by both consumer demand for the latest electronic gadgets and more countries refusing to import e-waste,’ Barker stresses. ‘Some 50 million tonnes of e-scrap was generated worldwide last year, with the metallic value alone estimated to be close to US$ 50 billion (EUR 44 billion). This includes US$ 22 billion in gold, found primarily in circuit boards. That “urban ore” is attractive feedstock for us.’

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