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Company Begins Mining the UK’s Streets for Gold

Veolia Environmental Services, one of the largest street cleaning firms in the UK, has decided that it will begin mining the waste that it sweeps off the streets in search of gold and other precious metals. They predict that they will be able to find at least £1 million worth of metals each year.

The metals that they will be searching for include, platinum, palladium, and rhodium, which are all commonly used in catalytic converters and often tiny particles are spat out in the cars exhaust emissions. There is also the chance that small slivers of gold, silver and diamonds, fall to the floor when caught in the clothes of jewellers, or rubbed off the clothes, shoes, and jewellery of the general public.

Veolia has built the country’s first ever plant to extract these precious materials from the waste, at Long Hall in Warwickshire. The plant will send the rubbish through various filtering, washing, and extracting processes in order to separate the metals from the rest of the debris.

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Veolia truck
Veolia truck. (ITV)

Richard Kirkman, the company’s technical director, explained that they “are developing a strategy of mining precious metals from street sweepings. In the past we have always sent our street sweeping to landfill or compost sites.

We wanted to find something to do with this material, so we are separating everything out with flotation tanks and mechanical sorting machines.”

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Kirkman claimed that they tend to find palladium, rhodium, and platinum in the similar levels to those of the metal ores mined from the ground.

Around the whole of the UK cleaners sweep a total of around 440,000 tonnes of rubbish from the streets, with Veolia collecting about 165,000 tonnes on its own. They believe that from this amount they will discover nearly; 1.5 tonnes of platinum, which is one of the rarest elements available and prized by jewellers and electronics manufacturers; 1.3 tonnes of palladium, again prized by jewellers, but especially vital for the production of fuel cells used in hydrogen powered cars; and 0.8 tonnes of rhodium, which in 2008 fetched a price of $6,000 per ounce.

Based on the success of this facility Veolia has plans to open three more around the country

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com



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