Extracting gold from rock and waste

A newly launched UK company is introducing a method for extracting gold from rock and waste materials and purifying it for medical research use.

Gold Extraction and Purification Technologies claim their process renders gold that is 99.9 per cent purified.

The company is the 100th to be launched by the DigitalCity Fellowship scheme, a programme designed to grow digital media and technology businesses. The scheme is facilitated by University of Teesside and Middlesbrough Council and supported by regional development agency One Northeast.

Andy Robinson, the electrical engineer behind company, spent six years working with the steel industry as a consultant advising on how to make high value products such as stainless steel out of scrap steel. He believes the same can be done with gold.

‘Over the past decade, gold has become a metal of great interest in the fields of science and engineering as new commercial opportunities have opened up,’ he said.

‘This however, has been coupled with increasing prices of gold as well as increased difficulties in extracting new gold sources.’

With help from the Institute of Digital Innovation (IDI) at Teesside, Robinson has been working with design software to map out scientific reactions at a molecular level and predict what will happen to the raw materials. Through his designs he hopes to find ways to reduce reaction development time, increase the profitability of gold extraction and purification and minimise the amount of waste produced through gold processing.

Robinson said the benefit of his process is the resulting gold won’t have any toxic impurities associated with current extraction techniques, which is especially important for medical research.

At present gold is often extracted from rocks and waste material using dangerous chemicals such as arsenic and cyanide, which is inappropriate for use in developing products to support cancer research.

Robinson added: ‘With gold trading at record prices they are opening up old gold mines where there is a lot of waste material that most people would think is of little or no value. But if you can extract and purify the gold you can get very high-value material.

Robinson is also working with another DigitalCity Fellowship science-based company, Nano Agrochemicals. The company, which was launched two years ago, is helping Robinson develop his solution using Nano Agrochemicals’ experience of using nanotechnology in the agricultural industry.