$2 million-dollar-worth of gold ends up in Switzerland's sewage annually

$2 million-dollar-worth of gold ends up in Switzerland's sewage annually

A study just published by Eawag scientists shows that gold and silver each amounting to around CHF 1.5 million a year are lost via effluents and sludge from wastewater treatment plants in Switzerland.

The concentrations of elements pose no risk to the environment as most cases lay below harmful limits. However, the study also produced surprising findings on other trace elements in wastewater, including rare earth metals such as gadolinium and the heavy metal niobium. While the ultimate fate of the various elements has been little studied to date, a large proportion is known to enter wastewater.

However, this is not the first time that metals have been detected in sewage sludge.

In addition to gold, nearly 3,000 kg of silver - equivalent to a value of Rs 11 crore- was going to waste every year, most if being residue from chemical and medical industries.

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A national research institute took samples from pipelines and water treatment plants, and concluded that the Swiss are throwing 40 kilograms of gold annually. But, they did find that there were some sites where recovery of the gold could be viable, like in the refinery-rich Ticino region where concentrations of the precious metal were likely high enough to justify the extraction effort and cost.

In one part of southern Switzerland that is home to several gold refineries, elevated levels of metal deposits might even be worth collecting.

It is the first such study where trace elements were surveyed in wastewater for an industrialised country.

According to Bloomberg, Switzerland is a major hub for gold refineries.

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