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Finding Precious Metals in Technology and Modern Devices

Where You Can Find Precious Metals

Precious metals are found in many electrical products we buy, and across multiple industries, such as electronics, automotive, renewable energies, medical supplies and devices, and more. Even the nib tips of your fountain pens are made of complex tungsten with ruthenium basis alloy, molded into a spherical shape. 

The nib itself is made of combined gold and steel and is non-porous. Fountain pens made with this high degree of materials last longer and are less susceptible to corrosive inks over long periods of time and usage.

Image of old-fashioned ink pen with nib.

Precious metals are used in computers which the majority of people use nearly every day at work or for fun at home.  Gold and silver are used often in electronic components because of excellent electrical conductivity, especially of heat, and is resistant to corrosion and tarnishing. They are also non-toxic metals.

Older computers, up to 1980, have more gold incorporated within the body than do those computers manufactured since 1981. From the 1980s onwards, components were made smaller and used less gold. So, let’s take a look at how some industries incorporate one or more precious metals within their product lines.

The Role of Precious Metals in Technology

  • Gold: Used in electronics due to its excellent conductivity and resistance to corrosion. Found in printed circuit boards, connectors, computer chips for CPUs, switches, cell phones, GPS units, and relay contacts. Gold is the best for electrical conductivity as silver and copper tarnish over time, reducing conductivity, and requiring more maintenance.
  • Silver: The best conductor of electricity (important for use in EVs and contact connections), windshields with electric heating, used in printed circuit boards, keyboard membranes, solar energy panels, 5G technology, and in radio-frequency identification (RFID) tracking tags. More silver is used in EV vehicles for electrical conduction than in the traditional gas-fed vehicles.
  • Platinum and Palladium: Used in hard disk drives and as a catalyst in fuel cells, respectively. Platinum, a denser precious metal, is used for jewelry, sometimes preferred over the softer silver. Palladium and platinum are both used industrially, but palladium is used more often than platinum, mainly because it is cheaper and easier to get. Often used for catalytic converters, dental fillings, and electrical components. Both have the same upward actions in the marketplace with values rising when inflation is higher.
  • Copper: Best used in external cables and connectors, printed circuit boards, but also plumbing tubes and associated fittings, marine and chemical engineering, electrical power generation, with transmission and distribution, heat exchangers, air-conditioning/refrigeration equipment, as roofing materials, and much more.

Environmental and Economic Implications

Mining Precious Metals

Mining for precious metals, especially when in demand for many different uses, can be a problem over time, as excavations and tunneling, along with subsequent mining processes, create a depletion of the land. Waste water entering the soil and, potentially, contaminating a close-by water table, is a large issue as well.

One research study, published in 2023, on a gold-mining operation in the Middle-Lower Yangtze metallogenic belt of China, analyzed the distribution of heavy metal particles into surrounding air and water sources, soil acidification, and erosion. The results showed high concentrations of heavy metals in mining wastes and the surrounding soils. Mineral particles leached into the soils, transported by air and the weathering oxidation through rainwater and surface runoff, exceeding 60 percent.

Another research study published in 2022 showed through assessing multiple studies concerning gold and copper mining practices in Chile and Peru, that tailings spills created pollution, “impacting water, soil, flora, fauna, and human communities.

In both studies, they showed that not enough regulatory oversight had been applied to offset contamination of the surrounding area. Many of these problems depend greatly on who is doing the mining, and if the country allowing the mining operation has set into place how environmental regulations should be conducted to avoid such contaminations of soils and surrounding waters.

Recycling Parts

Image of a computer's motherboard.

Computer Motherboards

 One example of precious metals recycling is with motherboards from discarded computers. Depopulation is the process of using common hand tools to pull out chips and other parts containing high-value internal components made out of precious metals (gold, silver, and copper) that can be resold. View a YouTube video here to see how each piece is evaluated for removal, depending on the amount of gold, silver, palladium, and platinum in place, then pulled and put into separated bins.

Each precious metal is separated out for further processing and would be sold per that day’s market value. For example, if palladium is used in a greater quantity, but is getting harder to acquire, then the price of palladium goes up. It is a matter of supply, demand, and pricing.

Depopulating motherboards is a very manual operation, and it is hard to see how that could ever become an automated application. Close-up inspection of each piece on a motherboard is essential before deciding to pull the object off the motherboard.

This process is also relevant to any type of circuit board found in automobiles and other transport vehicles, televisions, game consoles, tablets, phones, and anything else which has a system/circuit board to make the product run. However, computers have the most gold for recovery.

Future Trends

From the previous section, it is clear that mining for precious metals must be enough to produce what we need to satisfy demand, particularly where computers and chips are concerned. With the advent of AI, which more people use everyday, more hard drives are needed for greater amounts of servers for those processes that also operate cloud services.  

This goes back to mining where everything starts. There must be enough precious metals available, especially gold, so global demand is met. To reduce strain on recycling, more depopulators are needed to keep up with that same demand for supply. 

Manufacturers are beginning to add recycling operations within the circular service system, making it easier to have more precious metals on hand. In 10 years or less, we may have an automated recycling process, but we still need humans to oversee initial processes, at least for now. Recycling in place at the manufacturing site means far less contamination of the surrounding environment.


By now, we know that precious metals are in many of the electronic products we buy and use on a daily basis. Mining and recycling enough to satisfy our need for gold, silver, copper, platinum, and other precious metals means we can keep up with technological advancements and find better and more efficient ways to design and build things. We also continue to work on sustaining our environment at the same time. 

If you want to know more about investing in gold, silver, platinum, and copper coins or bars, contact us at Kzoo Bullion online, or call us at 989-423-1018. We will be happy to help you with what you need.

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