Researchers at US-based University of Notre Dame have developed a new method for cost-effective and safer mining of precious metals.
The scientists have created a new class of molecules that have the potential to simplify the process of capturing precious metals such as gold, platinum, and palladium.
A National Science Foundation-funded study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society underscored how the shape and size of the new molecules allow them to capture the precious metal ions.
The study noted that the ‘unique’ molecular recognition property is suitable for application in gold mining.
During the study, it was determined that the new method converts the gold-containing ore into chloroauric acid and uses an industrial solvent to extract it.
The research also highlighted that the container molecules showcased the ability to selectively separate the gold from the solvent without using water stripping.
University of Notre Dame chemistry and biochemistry professor Bradley Smith said: “Currently, most of the world’s gold mining relies on a 125-year-old method that treats gold-containing ore with large quantities of poisonous sodium cyanide, which is extremely dangerous for mine workers and can cause environmental issues.
“The new container molecules that our research team created are expected to be very useful for mining gold since they can be used in an alternative process under milder conditions.”
“Our newly developed molecules have the ability to eliminate this need for water stripping and facilitate solvent recycling in this alternative mining process.”
The researchers stated that the container molecules can also be used in processes that remove precious metals from urban wastewater streams.