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Asia leads in gold recycling

ESG Arnulf Hinkel, Financial Journalist – 06.07.2022

According to the precious metals market research company Metals Focus, the two countries that have recycled the most gold by volume in the last five years are Asian. The front-runner is China, which has been topping the lists of both the largest gold producing and consuming countries for years, followed by India in second and Turkey in third place. The US come in fourth, followed by Italy completing the top 5.

Leading position mainly due to recycling of scrap gold

One thing the leading gold recycling nations have in common is that gold traditionally plays an important role for their populations, mostly in the form of jewellery or coins. It is common for private households to sell gold jewellery as scrap gold when the gold price is particularly high or when private liquidity bottlenecks occur. While China has already been recycling high volumes of scrap gold for many years, the runner-up India is still new to the top 5. Compared to China, the country has significantly fewer gold deposits, but according to a recent World Gold Council study, it has expanded its refinery capacities by 500 per cent over the last eight years. It is in these refineries that the huge stocks of scrap gold from Indian households are recycled.

E-waste is called “anthropogenic minerals” in China

The fact that countries like Germany or the UK are not among the leaders in gold recycling is simply due to the dramatically lower amount of scrap gold entering the market compared to China or India. In terms of volume, even the increased focus on urban mining cannot change this. Speaking of which: what about urban mining in Asia? As in Europe and the US, gold recovery from e-waste is gaining traction there. Recycling of so-called “anthropogenic minerals” has been established in China for many years. While the state of urban mining in India remains somewhat more unclear, it is seeing fast growth – no wonder, given that the country is home to around 520 million smartphone owners..

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