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Experiment: Can You Mine Gold From Old Motherboards? (tomshardware.com)
70 points by bunglebooz on Aug 4, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 25 comments

I knew a lot of hardware hackers who did this as a side-business. They would find old electronic equipment and sell to someone else who, would sell it someone else and so on, until all that hardware ended with someone who had a large vat of acid just lying around.

It was in Eastern Europe, where, as everyone knows, people just have large vats of H2SO4 lying around in their back yard ;-)

Awesome! Recovering gold from the contacts with several steps involving electrolysis in 95% sulphuric acid and a reaction 2 Au + 3 Cl2 -> 2 AuCl3!

I wish there would be more chemical hacking articles like this. It's a pity they didn't write more about how did they come up with the process and how does it work.

If you research it a bit you'll find there are a few processes to get back the gold. Some more hazardous yielding higher returns while some are more cautious. I looked at it a while back and one process seemed feasible for DIY gold recovery but, you'll need to collect thousands of pounds of boards. Where you could do that I have no idea.

When I was just out of High School, I worked at a computer repair shop. We probably tossed out 50-60 pounds of fried motherboards and expansion cards a week until the owner worked a deal with somebody to haul away the stuff to get the gold out. After that we had a dedicated dumpster out back for throwing circuit board stuff into. We easily got to a couple thousand pounds that year.

I think he got some percentage of the money out of the parts, it wasn't a ton of money, but better than just throwing the stuff away.

If you know someone at an electronics recyling facility, or someone who repairs TVs, or computers. Basically you first have to have access to all those boards, then you can think of setting up your business.

There was a DEA agent giving a speech the other day. One of the stories he told was about a meth user who used his 3-4 days of being awake to harvest the gold from cpus/motherboards over the months. He stated the guy had a ball in between the size of a golf ball and baseball. He was just getting free equipment out of dumpsters in the city.

Kind if makes me want to start smoking meth. Imagine how much code I could write.

The author forgot to give instructions on how to safely dispose of these nasty chemicals.

If you have access to that kind of stuff, you probably know what to do next.

Never assume the power of idiocy will be subsumed by the power of common sense.

As a vintage computer collector and restorer, I find this rather alarming...

Nobody weeps for the pentium 60, my friend.

You should consider if your hobby isn't some kind of OCD or hoarding disorder.

Not all discarded computers are PCs. There is a lot of history that could be permanently lost if it's not deliberately preserved.

I keep a couple generations of Apple IIs, an 8-bit Atari, Amigas, RISC boxes and Macs (a couple months back you could see a perfectly functional Mac SE as part of my living-room decor) preserved. Lots of other important machines have been destroyed or recycled. I try to do my part preserving a small part of our heritage.

Believe me, there are enough people hoarding old computers. I could find all of those in my dad's basement. There is an official computer museum, we have our bases covered.

There is no "official" computer museum in my city. There are a couple private collectors with interesting artifacts and there is a group that is trying to establish a "real", curated, computer museum, but so far there is nothing definitive.

You also know not everybody lives on or close to Mountain View ;-)

You should also take into consideration all geographic differences in computing machinery. There were computers in Asia, Eastern Europe or South America that simply are not available elsewhere. A friend of mine has one of the few Macintosh clones (68K, Fat Mac-like) ever made and from that machine we can prove Apple's allegations to the DoJ against the Brazilian manufacturer were false - they removed the reverse-engineered ROM and put an original ROM inside the machine in order to show they were copies.

Those little moments will end up lost if we don't take care.

If we fail, one day our descendants will sing songs about the Whalers on the Moon and their heroic exploits.

I know a guy who has done this as a business for at least the last 20 years. Nice little business model.

That guy you know is doing the world a favor.

This is an alternative: <http://www.google.com/images?q=guiyu%2C+china>;

Not necessarily... Umicore in Belgium recovers >100 tonnes of gold (and more of other precious and base metals) from electronics scrap in a clean way (there's residential houses 10m from the factory).

I remember seeing a video in which it was claimed their electronics scrap was richer in gold (by weight I assume) than many gold mine ore.

Production capacity for gold exceeds 100 tonnes per year according to http://www.preciousmetals.umicore.com/metals_products/precio...

Right you are. According to p. 9 of this 2009 Umicore presentation production of gold at the Hoboken plant is 25 tonnes/year (still 1% of world mining production):


My apologies. I've corrected my sentence to use the article "an" instead of "the".

Of course, the pictures you link to are the norm, and clean recycling very much the exception...

The industrial process for refining gold ores uses cyanide in one of the processing steps. Good thing he didn't try that process for a DIY project. He's already insane enough for using concentrated sulfuric acid without a fume hood, emergency shower/eyewash station, and full face shield.

The challenge seems to be scaling this up... as ever!

I have a friend who's father makes his living by buying old computer equipment and selling the precious metals.

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