Recycling: An important factor in gold production – with growing significance

News 01.06.2015

The amounts of gold to be mined in the future will be limited from an economic point: according to the Financial Information Service SNL, mining opportunities may be exhausted 17 years from now, at least with today’s technology. Since no new gold deposits were discovered from 2012, recycling is very bound to play an increasingly important role in the future. Even today, the share of recycled gold of the total annual gold production amounts to about 30 per cent (average of the years 1995 – 2014). In the long run, the volume of recycled gold – has been growing by 4 per cent annually. However, these numbers are just averages since volumes do vary significantly from year to year. The reason: the recycled quantities are determined by up to 75 per cent by the current price of gold, as a recent study by the World Gold Council confirmed. In addition, global economy plays an important role: in times of crisis, recycling volumes do increase by up to 20 per cent, since not only the price of gold rises sharply but also a lot of people tend to sell their gold jewelry. In 2009, amidst the financial crisis, the share of recycled gold of the total production reached an all-time high of 42 per cent, while accounting for merely 17 per cent in 1999.

When it comes to gold recycling, there is a distinction between high-value gold and industrial gold. High-value gold stems from sources such as no longer usable jewelry, dental gold or damaged gold bullions and can be recycled very easily. Industrial gold is obtained primarily through the elaborate recycling of electronic waste. High-value gold clearly dominates the overall volume of recycled gold with a share of around 90 per cent. The share of industrial gold, however, has doubled over the last ten years and now stands at 10 per cent – and is still growing: due to the worldwide growing spread of electronic devices and ever shorter product life cycles, more and more electronic waste will be produced. In the face of the expected shortage of minable gold, recycling is becoming increasingly important in the future.

Arnulf Hinkel
Financial journalist 

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