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Switzerland's Sewers Contain $1.8 Million Worth of Gold

Switzerland's Sewers Contain $1.8 Million Worth of Gold

A 2015 study by Arizona State University found as much as US$13 million worth of metals in sewage waters produced every year in a city with a million people, US$2.6 million of which is gold and silver. The concentrations measured do not pose risks to the environment - and recycling would not be economically worthwhile.

Other rare earth metals, like gadolinium and heavy meal niobium, were also found in the Swiss wastewater, the report details. While the ultimate fate of the various elements has been little studied to date, a large proportion is known to enter wastewater.

Scientists have struck gold in an unlikely place: Swiss sewage and waste water treatment plants.

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.

The concentrations of metals in most cases do not harm the environment, according to the study, which was commissioned by Switzerland's Federal Office for the Environment.

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In some sites, like Ticino, researchers say the concentrations of gold in the sewage sludge are "sufficiently high for recovery to be potentially worthwhile".

The study focused primarily not on recovery value, but on fluxes and mass balances: this is the first time trace elements in wastewater have been systematically surveyed for an industrialized country.

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

The researchers believe the tiny flecks of gold flow into the waste water system from the country's famed watchmaking industry and gold refineries.