Mining gold from human feces: Yes, we're serious


Somehow we think Goldmember will be singing another tune after this.

According to new research just presented at the 249th national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Denver, you will find enough gold particles in solid human waste it would be profitable to mine municipal sewage facilities.

Sure, you jokingly refer to your toilet as “The Throne,” but is not you had been literally filling it with gold on a regular (hopefully) basis?

“The gold we found what food was in the level of a small mineral deposit,” said study author Kathleen Smith, from the US Geological Survey (USGS).

In accessory for gold, USGS researchers also found quite a lot of silver and valuable rare earth metals, like palladium and vanadium. The research team also found substantial quantity of harmful metals that they’re thinking about extracting from sewage for environmental reasons.

“There are metals everywhere,” Smith said, “inside your proper hair care products, detergents, even nanoparticles which are place in socks to avoid bad odors.”

At sewage plants, wastewater undergoes a number of physical, biological and chemical operations. The finish products are treated water and biosolids. Smith said over 7 million tons of biosolids emerged from American wastewater facilities annually. Approximately one half of this is used as fertilizer on fields and in forests, as the other 50 percent is incinerated or shipped to landfills.

Before you begin thinking you’re suddenly flush with cash, the USGS team noted that extracting these metals is going to be a scientifically intensive process.

“There exists a two-pronged approach,” Smith said. “In one part of the study, we are taking a look at removing some regulated metals from the biosolids to limit their use for land application.”

“In the other part from the project, we’re interested in collecting valuable metals that could be sold, including a few of the more technologically important metals, such as vanadium and copper which are in mobile phones, computers and alloys,” she added.

The team said they’re likely to follow the lead of industrial mining operations and are using chemicals called leachates to pull metals out of rock. Leachates do have a reputation for being toxic to ecosystems; however, Smith said inside a controlled setting they be used to safely extract metals from waste.

Smith warned that “the economical and technical feasibility of metal recovery from biosolids must be evaluated on the case-by-case basis.”