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Mining Computers for Gold and Silver

By: Steve Johnson

2/19/2008 - 103 Comments

With the price of gold and silver tripling in the last 3 years, recycling computers is becoming a prosperous business.

How much gold is in a desktop computer?  Gold is usually used as a thin plate over copper traces. Printed circuit gold is only one or two mils thick and you need several boards to make an ounce of gold.  If you need five boards for one ounce and gold is selling for $900 an ounce, then each board is worth $180. However, how much will it cost you to get the gold out of each board and how much can you actually recover?

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance estimates that 75 percent of obsolete electronics are currently being stored, which will one day result in a massive disposal issue for the country and the world. But, this pile of junk might just turn into a treasure.

Creative Recycling is taking the lead in recycling technology with their new facility that can process 150 million pounds per year of electronic equipment.  At full tilt they can recover approximately 25,000 ounces of gold per year, and just this operation alone can save more than 500,000 tons of mine waste per year.  They also recycle large volumes of silver, palladium, copper, aluminum, steel, plastic and glass.

If gold prices reach $1000 per ounce as expected this year, Creative Recycling will produce $25 million dollars this year just from gold.

Reference article: Creative Recycling

Historically, recovering precious metals from electronic scrap has been one of the greatest economic incentives for the electronics recycling industry. However, in an effort to cut cost, manufacturers have gradually reduced the precious metal content in electronic products, and this trend is likely to continue. Information on the specific amounts of individual precious metals (gold, silver, and the platinum group metals) recoverable is unavailable, but it is likely to be at least one-third.  

Reference article: Computer recycling

Not just Gold

Over the last few years, all precious metals are rising - gold, silver and platinum have ALL hit new highs. This may just be the time to get a job or invest in this industry.

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