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Gold recycling up 9 per cent in 2023

News Arnulf Hinkel, financial journalist – 05.02.2024

Gold mining reached 3644.4 tonnes in 2023, the second-highest figure ever – only the record year 2018 saw more gold extracted in the traditional way, at 3,655.9 tonnes. However, only one third of the 3 per cent year-on-year increase in total gold production is attributable to mine production. The remaining two thirds stem from strong growth in gold recycling, 9 per cent higher in 2023 than in the previous year, according to the latest figures published by the World Gold Council.

1,237 tonnes of gold through recycling

Further decisive factors for higher rates of gold recycling were the increased environmental and climate awareness on the part of many investors, but above all the skyrocketing gold price, which made the sale of scrap gold particularly attractive. The price per ounce reached an all-time high of US$2,135 on the London Stock Exchange in December and US$2,078 in OTC trading on the London Bullion Market. In view of dwindling mineable gold deposits and constantly rising extraction costs, recycling is also becoming an increasingly important alternative to mining in the overall economy. All-in-sustaining costs for gold mining reached a new high of US$1,343 per ounce in the third quarter of 2023. Overall, mining costs rose 5 per cent year-on year.

Urban mining potential far from exhausted

In view of the high and prospectively rising mining costs of gold, urban mining – the recovery of the precious metal from e-waste – is becoming increasingly attractive. This potential has hardly been exhausted, especially with regard to the kind of e-waste requiring relatively complex recycling processes. According to the 2023 study “Urban Mining for a Circular Economy” published by the German Institute for Economic Affairs, German households alone harbour discarded smartphones with a pure metal value of around €240 million, 65 per cent of which is determined exclusively by its gold content. This amount would be sufficient to cover the entire German demand for new smartphones over the next ten years.

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