Excrement of the Gods
Excrement of the Gods from Schiff Gold
The Aztecs described gold as the “excrement of the gods.”
Apparently, it’s also the excrement of mere mortals.
In a widely circulated story, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG) reports that about $3.6 million in gold and silver are lost each year in wastewater and sludge discharged from Swiss wastewater plants each year.
According to the report, about 43 kilograms of gold wash through Swiss sewers. That’s about $1.9 million worth of the yellow metal.
The scientists noted, “At certain sites in Ticino, concentrations of gold in sewage sludge are sufficiently high for recovery to be potentially worthwhile.” They attributed the higher concentrations in these areas to the presence of several gold refineries in the region.
Anybody up for a gold panning expedition in Ticino? Just pull up your waders and get rich quick! Of course, you’ll probably also get dysentery. But that’s a small price to pay for the yellow metal, right?
If you prefer the white metal, you have an even better shot at extracting riches from Switzerland’s sewers. The amount of silver flowing in Swiss wastewater comes in at about 3,000 kilograms every year.
Wrap your head around this idea – silverware made from Swiss sewer silver. Imagine that ad campaign.
In the book “Gold: Nature and Culture,” cited by CNN, the authors write that in the Andean region, “the sharp, eye-catching visual effects of shine, gleam, glint, glitter, glow, and strong colors were all considered the phenomena of sacredness.” Thus, gold’s association with deities – specifically their bodily functions. The Aztecs’ association between gold and holy excrement seems almost prophetic in light of the Swiss report. The Incas were a little less crass. They called gold the “sweat of the sun.” In ancient Egypt, gold was considered the “flesh of the gods.”
But apparently, the presence of precious metals in Swiss sewers is not because people poop gold. Well, except maybe for smugglers who stick large amounts of gold in their rectums. Most of the gold (and silver) in Swiss wastewater (and presumably in sewers around the world) comes from industrial runoff. About 70% of the world’s gold passes through Swiss refineries.
Scientists also found 1,070 kilograms of gadolinium, 1,500 kilograms of neodymium and 150 kilograms of ytterbium in Swiss wastewater. I have no idea what any of that means, but in the interest of complete reporting and journalistic integrity, I thought I should include those facts. I don’t want to be accused of being “fake news.” You’ll also be glad to know concentrations of these – whatever they are – were of “no ecotoxicological concern” and lay below specified limits. That means your gold hunting trip through Switzerland’s sewers should be relatively safe. Except for the sewage.
Fun on Friday is a weekly SchiffGold feature. We dig up some of the off-the-wall and off-beat stories relating to precious metals and the economy and share them with you – with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Click here to read other posts in this series.