07:45 GMT23 September 2020
Listen Live
    Europe
    Get short URL
    4203
    Subscribe

    While most of us hold out on the dream that one day we'll come across our own little pot of gold, it seems that Britons are washing millions of dollars of the stuff down the drain, after analysts found that close to US$20 million worth of precious metals were being flushed down UK sewers every year.

    Analysis undertaken by the Thames Water authority in London found that US$19.7 million (£13m) worth of precious metals, primarily gold, were found in Britain's sewerage systems on a yearly basis.

    Researchers noted that the amount of gold found in sewerage systems was in some cases equivalent to the amount of gold found in working mines.

    Cardiff University geologist Hazel Prichard, who has been working alongside the Thames Water team, told UK newspaper The Times that the unexpectedly high levels of precious metals were found by investigating the incinerators designed to burn off sludge:

    "We were stunned. They were all consistently high in gold."

    Researchers believe that many of the metals are being washed down household sinks every time people wash their hands, with wedding rings and other forms of jewelry giving off tiny particles of gold.
    © Flickr / Silvia Storti
    Researchers believe that many of the metals are being washed down household sinks every time people wash their hands, with wedding rings and other forms of jewelry giving off tiny particles of gold.

    Also, people with gold teeth are also thought to contribute to the gold buildup every time they brush their teeth.

    Along with household gold running down the sink, investigators say that cars are also responsible for depositing tiny bits of platinum into drains through emissions control devices, like catalytic converters.

    The surprising amount of gold found in sewerage systems is comparable to that in operating gold mines, Dr Prichard said.

    "It's one to three parts per million, which is huge. Goldmines are economical at one to three parts per million. The advantage is, it doesn't need to be mined… [or] crushed. The two big costs in getting gold out of rocks is mining and crushing them. It's environmentally friendly. It's gold, that's what matters."

    Officials in London now plan on working out how to extract the gold, with reports that a sewage facility in Tokyo has already started extracting gold from sludge.

    Related:

    China Discovers Huge Undersea Gold Deposit
    Mystery About Polish Nazi Gold Train Intensifies After Recent Test
    WWII Trucks With 100 Tons of Gold Found Buried West of Moscow
    Once in a Lifetime: 300-Year Old Spanish Treasure Found Near Florida
    Tags:
    platinum, mines, water, gold, society, analysis, Great Britain, United Kingdom
    Community standardsDiscussion