Scientists find gold and other rare earth metals in human faeces. The amount found is worthy of mining.
The next gold rush could be in sewage. A new report from a group of scientist says that human faeces contain gold, silver and other rare earth like palladium and vanadium in levels high enough to consider mining.
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At the 249th national meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Denver Dr. Kathleen Smith from the US Geological Survey said: "The gold we found was at the level of a minimal mineral deposit. We're interested in collecting valuable metals that could be sold, including some of the more technologically important metals, such as vanadium and copper, that are in cell phones, computers and alloys."
Right now the 7 million tons of solid waste that American Sewage treatment plants are producing is used as fertilizer and incinerated in equal parts. The BBC reports that the waste of 1 million Americans contains about metal of $13m in value. This number is from a study by at the Arizona State University. Now lets do the math. there are 318.9m Americans. This means there is about $4 Billion worth of metal in American faeces each year. Sounds like a good business to be in. It is not only lucrative but also good for the environment. Many of these metals are hazardous.
The group of scientists is exploring the use of chemicals to "wash out" the gold from sewage.
The question about how the metals get into the human stool remains unanswered by this research. It can't be just from the people who down the world's most expensive burger with its gold dressings. Gold teeth are also not that common anymore. Is the main reason of metals in sewage that people chew on their jewelry and electronics?
Sewage is not only containing faeces, which could also explain the rather high amount of metal found. A lot of shampoos and antiperspirants use metal particles.
The Chemistry of Natural Resources Meeting is held this week in Denver until the 26th.