Precious metal refining do’s and don’ts

Social IssuesEnvironment

  • Author Stewart Gillham
  • Published March 23, 2018
  • Word count 941

Precious metal refining is the separation of precious metals such as gold and silver from not noble-metalliferous materials.

The process for refining precious metals is quite sophisticated and in most cases the intervention of a professional metal refiner is required. The most common procedures for isolating noble-metalliferous materials are called pyrolysis or hydrolysis.

In pyrolysis, the noble-metalliferous products are released from the other materials by solidifying in a melt to become cinder and then poured off or oxidized. In hydrolysis, the noble-metalliferous products are dissolved either in aqua regia (consisting of hydrochloric acid and nitric acid) or in hydrochloric acid and chlorine gas in solution. Subsequently, certain metals can be precipitated or reduced directly with a salt, gas, organic, and/or nitro hydrate connection. After that, they go through cleaning stages or are recrystallized. The precious metals are separated from the metal salt by calcination. The noble-metalliferous materials are hydrolysed first and thermally prepared (pyrolysed) thereafter. The processes are better yielding when using catalysts that may sometimes contain precious metals themselves. When using catalysts, the recycling product is removed in each case and driven several times through the cycle.

If you think you could recover precious metals from your scrap, it’s always a good idea to ask for professional help from a reputable precious metal refiner. All Waste Matters have over 50 years’ experience in successful gold and silver recovery from a vast array of industries and over this time we have built up a huge repertoire of techniques for recovering gold and precious metals from even the most unlikely of sources.

Tapping into our wide experience, we have compiled a list of dos and don’ts that we believe can save time and money when working with a precious metal refiner.


Do provide enough information to your refiner. The more information you provide when asking for a quote or having your samples analysed the more accurate your quote is going to be. The physical composition of your scrap will guide the refiner on what process to undertake and it will influence the value of your return.

Do visit your refiner. There are very few secrets in refining precious metals so ask your refiner to show you their facilities and the processes they use, including the lab where the materials are being analysed. Ask them if they refine your material in their own plant or if they a broker.

Do understand how your samplings are being analysed. Understand what process is used and what level of accuracy they can grant can influence the amount of gold or silver that they can refine from your scrap. Newer technologies are introduced constantly so make sure their lab is up to speed with the latest techniques.

Do evaluate the experience of refiner. If you are not confident that your refiner has the training and skills to handle your material properly, go elsewhere.

Do make sure that your refiner is in compliance with all the current regulations. Check if your precious metal refiner is fully licensed with the Environment Agency. Being responsible will protect you from future liability or regulatory action. Remember, if the refiner improperly disposes of your waste, you are co-responsible by law.

Do try to eliminate as much extraneous material from your scrap before collection and book your collection when you have a reasonable amount. It saves time and money to prepare your scrap for collection making sure your refiner will pick up only what is worth of being refined. Ask your precious metal refiner to help implementing some best-practice guidelines for you, if in doubt.

Do make sure that your refiners’ terms will meet the needs for your business. What is most important to your business? Highest quality of the return, flexible return options, market flexibility, your refiner being local to you or something else? Finding a partner that can meet your needs will reduce stress in running your business.


Don’t choose a refiner just because they are local to you. Contact 2–3 businesses and ask them to provide a quote — which they should do free of charge — and then evaluate costs vs. benefits of using each partner. You may find that a refiner a little further away from you is actually providing the most cost-effective service and can guarantee a better return, which compensate for higher travel costs.

Don’t hold your refining because you think the prices of precious metals are going up. Trust the best quote provided by your chosen partner and have your metals refined. It is always easier and more profitable to sell the pure product than to market the unknown scrap.

Don’t mix precious metals unnecessarily. Most refiners have minimum percentage amounts for the process to be worthwhile. You will receive better settlements if you separate your scrap by metal that can be refined.

Don’t be too happy if you receive a much larger return than you expected from your scrap. It is usually an indication that your processes are not efficient since waste should be kept to a minimum. Ask your precious metal refiner to work with you to help minimise your wastage.

From our experience these are some of the most common aspects to take in consideration when working with a precious metal refiner. Partnering with the right business and establishing an efficient way of working together can provide you with extra funds that you might not otherwise have been able to attain. Finding a service that have experience with your industry, offers straightforward collection and refining processes, and is candid about their methods will ensure that you make the most of the deal in every respect.


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