herald

Friday 18 August 2017

Stinking rich! We're all sitting on a gold mine!

Never was the expression "where there's muck there's brass" more appropriate.

Scientists have discovered a literal goldmine of precious metals in human poo.

The US researchers are investigating ways of flushing out the minerals, including gold, silver and rare elements such as palladium and vanadium.

So far, the group has already identified gold in waste from American sewage treatment plants at levels which if found in rock could be worth mining.

The microscopic nuggets were observed using a scanning electron microscope.

deposit

Lead scientist Dr Kathleen Smith, from the US Geological Survey, said: "The gold we found was at the level of a minimal mineral deposit."

The metals find their way into the body and end up being excreted and going down the toilet. At sewage treatment plants they are concentrated in left-over "biosolids", more than seven million tons of which are produced in the US each year.

Half the biosolids are used as fertiliser on fields and in forests while the other half are incinerated or buried at landfill sites.

Dr Smith said: "In one part of the study, we are looking at removing some regulated metals from the biosolids that limit their use for land application.

"In the other part, we're interested in collecting valuable metals that could be sold, including some of the more technologically important metals, such as vanadium and copper."

hnews@herald.ie

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