Extraction of precious metals from e-waste by microbes

Extraction of precious metals from e-waste by microbes

The UK will get the first commercial plant to extract precious metals from e-waste using bacteria. The separation of gold is usually carried out by the addition of sodium cyanide in a process where it forms a water-soluble coordination complex with elemental gold and is thus washed out of the compound. The production of reagents for the extraction of gold represents a significant part of the world’s consumption of cyanide, which is a well-known poison to the environment and dangerous to humans.

New Zealand start-up Mint Innovation wants to launch a pilot urban mining plant within a year, reports The Guardian. The UK produces more WEEE than the EU average and is one of the biggest violators of restrictions on WEEE exports to developing countries, where they are not adequately equipped for an environmentally and socially responsible way of WEEE disposal.

The transfer of the in vitro process to the operational level is also affected by the forthcoming departure of the UK from the EU – incoming and outgoing tariffs that would be forced to be paid by treatment operators to extract gold from printed circuit boards in the EU are economically unjustified.

The procedure is a model example of a circular economy in the field of waste electrical and electronic equipment. The bio-refinery itself resembles a microbrewery in terms of operation, but uses less energy, CO2, water and cyanide and produces less waste for the same yield as smelters.

The processing capacity of the bio-refinery is 20 tons of WEEE per day.

However, there are also doubts regarding the revolutionarity of the plant, as despite the use of microbes, it also uses acids in the process of dissolving metals.

View the process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6f7b2ktXRVA

See the full article at the link below: 
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/aug/22/britain-first-commercial-refinery-extracting-precious-metals-e-waste-mint-innovation

Mint Innovation website: https://www.mint.bio/

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