Thursday, August 20, 2009
Japan's sewers paved with gold
Japan may be struggling with a deepening recession, rising job losses and tumbling stocks but an unusual source of wealth has been found in a rather unlikely place - the sewers.A sewage treatment facility in Nagano prefecture, north-west of Tokyo, has reported a yield of gold extracted from sludge to rival production levels at some of the best mines in the world.Tens of thousands of pounds worth of gold has been found at the Suwa treatment facility in the past year, with more than 1,890 grammes of gold per tonne of ash recorded from incinerated sludge.Japan's Mount Asama erupts The gold yield significantly surpasses levels at Japan's Hishikari Mine, one of the world's leading gold mines, where 20 to 40 grammes of the precious metal are found per tonne of ore.The unexpected presence of soaring levels of gold in sewage has been attributed to the high concentration of precision equipment manufacturers using the precious metal in the Nagano region.While the facility has so far received £38,500 (5 million yen) for the gold, it is predicting its coffers could swell by £116,000 (15 million yen) by the end of the financial year next month as a result of the precious metal."How much we actually receive will depend on gold prices at the time," the official said.As the nation sinks further into recession, the yields of the nation's gold-lined sewers could not come at a better time: gold industry officials predict prices to hit record levels this year, fuelled by purchases by investors concerned about the economic downturn.Sewers are not the only location where resource-poor Japan is seeking its fortunes: the nation's rubbish dumps are among other unlikely sources of gold and other precious metals.High-tech rubbish dumps dubbed "urban mines" located outside every major city in Japan have emerged as a major source of resources for substances including gold, silver, lead, zinc and copper.The soaring value of the nation's vast landfills has been fuelled by the nation's insatiable appetite for the latest top of the range electronic consumer goods: as many as 20 million mobile phones are replaced by Japanese every year with little more than 13 per cent recycled.
By Danielle Demetriou in Tokyo
Published: 2:59AM GMT 02 Feb 2009