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Urban mining: the new gold rush for recycled precious metal

Published Wednesday 6th April 2016

Obtaining money for ‘scrap’ gold jewellery – the unwanted or broken items lying in the back of a drawer – is great way to make some extra cash.

Such is the demand from industry for gold components, whether that’s for a new smartphone or for the circuits in a laptop, there’s no sign of the market diminishing any time soon. And because gold is currently enjoying some of the highest prices in years, the return you receive is also up.

The electronics industry is one of the major users of scrap gold. It’s reckoned that around £25 worth of gold goes into manufacturing a new laptop, and from a commercial point of view, it’s much cheaper for makers to use recycled precious metals than buy newly-mined gold ore.

Industry estimates suggest that around 320 tonnes of gold and 7,500 tons of silver go into making new computers and hi-tech devices annually. Although laptop circuit boards require the most, your tablet device contains around £10 of the precious metal and there is around £4 of gold in the average smartphone.

As well as sourcing gold from recycled unwanted jewellery, companies are now taking up ‘urban mining’ to remove the gold content from broken or outdated technology, Channel Biz reported.

Mark Hall from BusinessWaste.co.uk, based in York, said: “Verifiable destruction combined with the smart recovery of precious metals can now be achieved by companies with the right expertise and right equipment, and it’s these urban miners who are going to profit from British industry’s continuing need for up-to-date equipment and readily-available raw materials.”

So while there may not be gold in them there hills, there probably is in your old computer. However, the best – and easiest - returns for individuals are undoubtedly in the shape of your old gold rings, earrings and necklaces.