The finishing.com Hotline: Serious Education ... plus the most fun you can have in metal finishing. Ted Mooney, Webmaster
Gold pieces on computer component boards?
Q. Yes I have a question as to whether or not there is any gold in the computer boards that are found when computers are being scrapped? And if there is gold in these, what is the best and easiest way for someone who scraps for a "living"? Is there even such thing as an easy way to clean the gold out of the parts that are on these boards? Please, I am in need of some honest to goodness help with this. Thank you.Amy Roop
hobbyist/scrapper - Celina, Ohio
Yes there is gold on most computer boards. The bad thing is that the parts or parts of the board are gold plated, usually in microinch thickness on top of nickel. It would not be profitable unless you were to collect hundreds of computers. By the time you collected all those computers the price of gas you pay today to get them would nullify any profit. Almost all landfills forbid computers to be dumped these days, so you would have trouble getting rid of them after you did retrieve any gold. Sorry, but those are the logistics.
Process Engineer - Syracuse, New York
A. Yes, there is gold in computers. Maybe $0.20 worth in modern PCs. Using dangerous chemicals will create lots of hazardous waste from which can be extracted a tiny bit of gold which can't be sold without an assay fee. If you already have right chemicals, equipment, wastewater treatment permits and slave labor, breakeven would be at about 30,000 CPU chips. The Commonwealth and University of Massachusetts did a study (1998?) on recycling of combined electronic waste streams. Presuming a $6/hour worker could dissemble the waste into 17 (or was it 21?) recyclable groups, about 18 tons/week was the minimum for breakeven (including savings from reduction in hazardous waste disposal fees). Their Chelsea Recycling Center closed in 2003.
See Letters #18889, 29505, 41565 for more information.
For recycling electronic waste, see
Some vendors such as Best Buy, Dell, HP, IBM and SONY have (or had) recycling programs. HP recycles 4,000,000 pounds a month and charge $13-34 per item (any brand) to cover costs. Dell offers free recycling of their products.
- Goleta, California
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!! I KEEP READING THESE NEGATIVE RESPONSES. BUT MY RESEARCH TELLS ME DIFFERENT. PEOPLE ARE PAYING AN AVERAGE OF 2.00 DOLLARS A POUND FOR COMPUTER SCRAP ON EBAY ALONE. SO INSTEAD OF PUSHING THESE PEOPLE AWAY. WHY DON'T YOU POINT THEM IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. AT LEAST THEN YOU KNOW THAT THEY'RE TAUGHT RIGHT. IT'S OBVIOUS THEY ALREADY HAVE THE COMPUTER COMPONENTS. A LESSON NOT LEARNED HARD ISN'T A LESSON. WOULD YOU RATHER HEAR OF FAMILIES BURNED UP OR CHEMICALLY BURNED BY EXPERIMENTATION OR WITH FALSE INFORMATION?STEVEN BLAIR
EBAY - Kingman, Arizona
Hi Steven. I understand your point; the "they'll do it anyway" argument applies to a thousand things in life. Yes, some cities give free hypodermic needles to junkies. And some schools feel their job is to hand out free rubbers to children rather than teach them to get an after-school job to buy their own.
On the other hand, the fire department doesn't try to teach people "the safe way" to go back into burning buildings for their pets, even though they know some people will do it. And driver training isn't offered to 10 and 11 year old kids, although some will try to drive at that age.
Instead of demanding that people of different political persuasion and sensibilities accept our position, we simply post whatever suggestions are offered, which range from "don't do it" to "here's how to do it".
But personally, I side with almost every environmental organization in the world in asking that people not do amateur recycling of electronics. It's not just that your competition is starving children, and people risk their health for nothing -- it's also that amateur recycling of e-waste is a wrecking ball that scatters toxins everywhere, while it cherry picks any small amount of value from the waste, thereby making responsible recycling of e-waste impossible.
As for us offering safety instruction, the very first rule in every chemical safety course is: "Never Ever Work Alone!" -- do you swear to follow that one without fail before we bother moving on to rule #2? If you feel it's okay to skip the most important rule, what on earth is the point?
If there was a way of providing necessary safety instruction via an internet posting, we would try. But there is just no place to start that doesn't leave a dozen ways open that people can kill themselves. If we warn people of the numerous dangers of cyanide, they may explode their house by substituting picric acid, or by creating ammoniacal fulminates. People in industry must receive annual hands-on training to work with a half-dozen or fewer chemicals in a specialized, routinized, circumstance. In the giant one-room schoolhouse called the internet, where PhD's in chemical engineering and grade school kids are equally likely to read a posting, it just isn't realistic to think that a manageable set of warnings can be developed. But don't fool with chemicals you don't understand unless you've had extensive, regular, hands-on instruction, have been fitted with PPE by a professional, and have had the site certified by a chemical safety expert. And. of course, don't forget rule #1.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
October 23, 2008
I agree completely that there isn't enough gold in computer scrap to make money at refining without a very large source of scrap. I tried recovering gold out of scrap TV components and only recovered a few specks. But I couldn't believe the amount of silver in it. Nearly every bit of solder on a circuit board is apparently silver solder. The number one goal for an electronic scrapper would have to be efficiency. But if you collect all the metals you can make money. The copper, silver, even the steel have a value that you can cash in on. If you wish to try it then I highly recommend the book "Recovery and Refining of Precious Metals" by C.W. Ammen =>
It gives a lot of details about processes used from recovery ore, jewelry scrap, and electronic scrap. It tells about the acid process and the electrolytic process. It even gives directions on how to build a chlorine drum to recover gold from electronics and ore.
- Jackson, Mississippi
March 31, 2009
In the response to retrieving precious metals from computers.
My cousin was doing just that, Of course you have to be careful ordering the chemicals used for doing that especially if you live in the USA. It sends a red flag to the F.B.I. and you'll end up being arrested and have the police lie and fabricate stories about you. Your name will be dragged through the mud. Of course you can thank the anti-terrorist crap for that -- giving too much power to the police and taking individual freedoms away from the people. It is like Nazi-Germany or Communistic-Russia. The police go into your home without a warrant and destroy it (leaving empty pizza boxes, crust and pop cans and rubber gloves all over the floor) ... and remember, the insurance won't cover the damage because it's done by the police. Be warned!
- Chapleau, Ontario, Canada
March 31, 2009
Hi, Vikki. I think I sense that there was no love lost between you and the police even before this incident, but you are certainly correct that things can go sour: letter 4120 here addresses "Jailed for blackening metals with cyanide". And read the news: more than one person has been indicted for murder when their spouse died of natural causes when there was cyanide in the house.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
April 16, 2013
Forget about penny pinching Gold out of a Computer. Back in 2002 I was introduced to Metal Detecting and when I found my first old Coin which was a 1847 Large Cent(U.S Coin), I was hooked. In a 2 hour hunt I found a rare Coin worth $400. It's a great hobby and not just a hobby of a bunch of old guys on the beach picking up loose change. Some of these guys actually find rings worth thousands of dollars. They just don't advertise it, would you? There's others that hunt in the woods around old Cellar Holes and have found George Washington Buttons worth thousands as well, not to mention coins and other Relics.
That's where the money is, especially with Gold and Silver at all time highs.
- Enfield, Connecticut
Soaking components in bleach to extract the goldDecember 5, 2014
Q. I have been told that soaking components in bleach will extract the gold. Thoughts anyone, everybody?Wanda Nelson
- Mesa, Arizona. USA