Nothing in the jewellery industry is perfect. Mining for precious metals is not sustainable – quite literally.
Recycled precious metals are for the most part untraceable.
Refiners and bullion dealers can stop the illicit trade or gold or turn a blind eye to it. See Christina’s article here for more information:
Using recycled gold won’t stop gold mining – people are making way too much money to ever stop.
Using recycled gold doesn’t support artisan and small scale miners and their communities in the way Fairmined and Fairtrade gold does.
Reusing gold that’s already been refined, uses less energy than having to dig it up and extract it from ore. Can I give you figures to compare?
A high yielding gold mine might give you 8-10g of gold per ton.
A platinum mine might give you 2-6g of platinum per tonne (1.1 tons)
Platinum group metals (platinum, palladium, rhodium etc) are some of the rarest metals on the planet.
The more ore you have to dig up, the higher the energy cost of producing the precious metal.
In 2018, the World Gold Council estimated that gold mine production (ore extraction and refining, including energy supply, fuel etc) accounts for 32,689 tonnes of CO2 per 1 tonne of gold.
The report suggests that recycled gold accounts for 4228 tonnes of CO2 per 1 tonne of gold. As opposed to around 30,000 tons of CO2 per tonne for newly mined gold. That’s a huge difference. Read the report here
One thing to note though, these figures are for large scale industrialised gold mines – the figures for artisan and small scale mines are likely to be much lower. I don’t think comparative figures are available, but I will ask my contacts at Fairmined and Fairtrade.
I’d expect the CO2 emissions of platinum to be higher than gold. Because platinum is rarer, more ore has to be mined. Much platinum in mined in South Africa where the energy grid is run off coal. Platinum is more complicated to refine than gold and takes longer. Platinum is harder to work, it melts (of a fashion) at a much higher temperature and has to be extruded rather than poured.
Gold melting point: 1064 degrees celsius.
Platinum melting point: 1768 degrees celsius.
I do think there is a place for recycled gold, sourcing from reputable suppliers is an absolute necessity to avoid it being a way for illicit or dirty gold to enter the supply chain. I believe the best way to have recycled precious metal is to reuse what you already own.