Hungry for Gold – A new Approach to E-Waste Recycling

Gold loaded microbes formatted
microbes loaded with gold

Mint Innovation, a startup company from Auckland, New Zealand, recently reported having succeeded in recovering gold, palladium and copper from electronic waste by exposing the material to microbes with a taste for the three metals. I spoke with Ollie Crush, the company’s chief scientist, to learn more about this process.

“The overarching goal is to come up with a lower capex / opex way of recovering precious metals from electronic waste”, said Crush. “You could then have decentralized plants compared to smelters that process large scales of waste. The advantage is more certainty for the aggregator, shorter time frames on payment, more transparency and a higher return of value from what they are collecting.”

The microbes are fairly selective in what they digest. According to Crush, they collect more than 90% of the gold, palladium and copper contained in printed circuit boards (PCBs), over 60% of the total value of the feedstock. The team is still working on expanding the selection capability to extract more of the most valuable components.

Mint team formattedThe precious metals are being retrieved from the loaded microbes by ashing them, another step that is still being optimized. Crush points out that developments into process refinements, and developments into other metals, are still limited because of the small size of the business. Mint Innovation are currently working on setting up a pilot plant in Auckland that would be capable of processing about 200 metric tons of PCBs per year using a 5,000 liter tank, yielding approximately 40kg of gold. The project is partially funded but the company is still seeking capital for the US$ 4-5 million plant.

A full size plant will be able to handle 10 times the volume, which is when larger markets than New Zealand will be needed to fully utilize the technology.

 

IPMI Symposium Update

Hi everyone,

It’s finally happening! Tonight, we’ll kick off the “Precious Metals and Mobility” Symposium in New Brunswick, New Jersey. A few updates:

We know several of you are not having fun traveling today with the storm going on in our area. So please note that the Welcome Reception tonight has been moved to 7pm (was 6pm), and we’ll save you a drink.

Also, please view or download the final version of the event program here. Note the times, rooms, and the one speaker change on Tuesday.

We look forward to seeing everyone at The Heldrich tonight.

Meine “Panama Papers”

100-oz-gold-bar-verical-transparancy“Let´s get physical: the golden rules of gold investment” wurde als zweiter Beitrag ins Programm des “Emergency Summit” aufgenommen, einer Konferenz für Investoren, die vom 24.-26.Oktober in Panama City stattfinden wird.

Mehr Infos zur Konferenz gibt´s hier: http://liveandinvestoverseas.com/conf/emergency-offshore-summit-2016/

Titel des ersten Vortrags ist: “Rare opportunities: understanding strategic metal investments”.

Über Ihren Besuch würde ich mich sehr freuen.

 

Emergency Offshore Summit in Panama

With the “Live and Invest Overseas” conference just finished, the next event is already on the horizon. Lief Simon’s “Emergency Offshore Summit” is aimed at investors worried about the political future of the United States after the elections in November. One way or another, instability may be a result, and the conference focuses on legal precautions private investors have at their disposal to hedge against such effects.

The conference will be from October 24-26 in Panama City, Panama, and I will be speaking on two topics: physical investments in strategic metals, and in precious metals. Let’s not make it one of these:

To register for the event please click here. Looking forward to seeing you in Panama!

Platinum Group Metals: staring down a cliff?

TecDay Road to the Future – Drive TrainOne topic of my annual “Metal Megatrends” paper at the recent IPMI conference in Phoenix was sustainable mobility, and its impacts on metal consumption. In fact, if you read the story of how my column for Kitco News started four years ago (see the “Welcome” page of this blog), we have now reached a point where we can answer the question: “What if all cars in the world were electric?”.

The answer is now online on Kitco News (click here to read).

While my paper (available through the IPMI in a little while) was also critical regarding Tesla executives’ role in trash talking hydrogen it should also be disclosed that I am on the long list of people having pre-ordered a Model 3, and I share the admiration of Elon Musk by those who say he is shaping the world by his visions, perhaps in more significant ways than Steve Jobs ever has.

As a result of adding up all the facts in front of us the only logical conclusion is that the era of the internal combustion engine is coming to an end. There will be a long tail, of course, with cars being passed on from some regions of the world to others, and with heavy duty engines as an unresolved issue. What about collector’s cars? Will a “boutique” style infrastructure emerge where we buy fuel in new ways, or is it back to the pharmacy like in the early days of the automobile?

Last but certainly not least: what will happen to pgm markets in the meantime? Assuming that the fuel cell will eventually gain traction, the loss of platinum on emission control catalysts might be offset by the growth of the FCEV. Palladium, which is already used in some fuel cells, might once again play a role as a substitute. Only for rhodium the direction is unclear in this environment.

That said, the unique properties of precious metals have always made them desirable, if not irreplaceable, in technology applications. I am optimistic that new uses will emerge as technologies advance further.

40th Anniversary of the IPMI Conference coming up!

Just a reminder that this year’s conference of the International Precious Metals Institute (IPMI) is less than a month out. It’s a special one, too, the 40th conference of its kind with an excellent program covering all aspects of the industry.

IPMI Conference Poster

I love this event because it is such a unique opportunity to catch up on current topics and trends combined with the opportunity to (re)connect and network with industry executives from around the world. If you need further convincing, the Desert Ridge Resort in Phoenix, Arizona, is a truly spectacular venue.

I will be speaking as the first presenter in Session C at 10:00 am on Sunday morning, June 12, 2016. Session location are the Grand Canyon Ballrooms 9 & 10.

Head over to http://www.ipmi.org for reservations – looking forward to seeing you there!

IPMI Video Series on Precious Metals Analysis now complete

IPMI Sampling and AnalysisThe International Precious Metals Institute (IPMI) just released its fifth and final video on precious metals sampling and analysis. The list of videos was already contained in an earlier blog. You can see them all here, or you can go straight to YouTube and watch their latest only.

These videos were produced by Tom Bannos in collaboration and with contributions from many IPMI member companies. I like them because they are balanced enough to be interesting for a technical audience as well as for people with a general interest only. Strongly recommended viewing for anyone in the business.