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Young Scientists Talked About How to Increase Gold Production in Russia


13.08.2020

The cost of yellow metal has fallen sharply this week, securing slightly above $1,900 per troy ounce. That’s almost 7% less than the historic highs recorded in early August.


Most experts agree that the sales wave that swept the market is more a correction after an excessively strong growth than a new downward trend. After all, despite the creation of the coronavirus vaccine in Russia, the terms of recovery of the world economy from the current crisis may be longer than previously assumed. Uncertainty of forecasts will contribute to the recovery in demand for gold, including physical, and thus, will return prices to growth.


Is it possible to increase production volumes? Or is there a shortage of metal and, as a result, a rapid increase in its value?

In fact, already more than a quarter of all gold in the world is produced through its extraction from landfills of electronics and other waste. Last year, according to WGC data, companies involved in recycling offered the market 1,304 tons of gold, 11% more than in 2018 (production at the deposits was 3,463 tons – Ed.). Despite such impressive figures, practically no one in Russia is engaged in this on an industrial scale, although the complete recycling of e-waste is very important because it affects the environmental situation in cities and on the planet as a whole. This matter is particularly topical today, as the technological paradigm has shifted towards compliance with the environmental agenda and sustainable development goals.

Dmitry Sidorov, student of St. Petersburg Mining University

He is a member of the Miners team of St. Mining Petersburg University, which shared the first place in the competition of cases “Minerals as not only raw materials from the subsurface" with the representatives of the MISIS. It was organized by the International Competence Center for Mining Engineering Education under the auspices of UNESCO in cooperation with the Institute for Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3, UK).


8 teams took part in the final stage of the tournament. They had to determine the amount of gold that can be extracted from electronic waste from St. Petersburg landfills and estimate its value in British pounds sterling. Next, the young people were asked to calculate the amount of money necessary for the organization of the process of collecting industrial waste, as well as to create an enterprise where the precious metal will be extracted from it. Two weeks were allotted to prepare the solution and create the presentation, after which the competition itself in a remote format took place.

As it turned out, the sale of recovered gold, as well as other precious metals extracted from e-waste, makes it possible to pay back the cost of equipment amazingly quickly and get impressive profits in the longer planning horizons. Thus, such an enterprise simultaneously frees the ecosystem from hazardous waste and benefits from its environmental activities. In addition, there is an opportunity to act as a supplier of other types of raw materials that are contained in scrap - from ferrous metals to various plastics. Therefore, we considered it logical and correct to spend more money on cleaning related materials with the aim of their further sale.

Member of the Oilteam of Ugra (Ugra University) team, runner-up, Artur Lyubin

The city on the Neva produces about 400 thousand tons of electronic waste per year. It is an excellent source of metals such as gold, copper, aluminum and a number of others, but only 5-10% of this amount is recycled. Among the factors influencing this state of affairs is the need to purchase special high-precision equipment, the shortage of specialists capable of working on it, the heterogeneity of the disposed waste by hazard classes and sizes, and a number of other factors. However, according to MISIS representatives, all investments will definitely pay off.

We studied the logistic, technological and economic aspects of the project. The capacity of our production, hypothetically located in Kovalevo, is 40 thousand tons per year; that is, its daily requirement is 161 tons of raw materials. Accordingly, to organize the timely delivery of materials to the plant, we’ll need to create 30 collection points, with a daily throughput of 5.37 tons per point each.

Moscow team captain Mikhail Belokrys
MISIS students not only presented a detailed technological scheme of all stages of production, but also calculated the costs necessary for its creation and further functioning. The profit has also been asessed: from 10 to 12.9% annually. Everything was presented in such detail that it looked more like a serious feasibility study than the work required to participate in a case study.

According to the director of the qualifications assessment department of the British IOM3 Institute Ian Boubrick, one of three experts who evaluated the quality of the ideas presented, “all the participants in the competition did a great preparatory work, were able to prove the practical importance of recycling and technically substantiate their proposal.” However, “the financial models presented by the teams of St. Petersburg Mining University and MISiS differed in quality, which was the key to their victory.”

The case made Russian students realize that it is not always necessary to travel thousands of kilometers in order to obtain such a valuable material as gold, and also think about the business potential that such an untapped resource can provide. Overall, all the teams were methodical and demonstrated the level of thinking to be expected from a professional mining engineer. It would be interesting to see how they will present their proposals to each other face to face in front of the jury and the audience, and perhaps this will happen the next time after all restrictions are lifted.

Ian Bowbrik

He also announced that a similar competition will be organized for students from the United Kingdom in September. Its winners, as well as their Russian peers, will take part in the case tournament, which will be held as part of the 4th Russian-British Raw Materials Dialogue in October. In connection with the coronavirus pandemic, it will be held in a remote format.

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