Extract silver from ore, win $10,000,000

Scott says:
Picture 9-12 Barrick Gold has a problem. It's got a whop of silver in Argentina, but it's tapped in silica-encapsulated ore. If you can "unlock the value" -- ie figure out a way to economically boost their current 6.7 per cent recovery rate -- they'll give you a cool $10 mil. Kinda like the X Prize, only underground.


  1. Silver melts at a lower temperature than silica. Throw the stuff into a big oven, heat and strain off.

    Also, I don’t want no 10mil. I want residuals from all the silver you guys recover. 10% for the life of the mine should be good.

  2. Dragonphyre, if you read http://www.unlockthevalue.com/SilverRecovery.aspx you’ll see that the silver is fully embedded in the silica. If you melt only the silver, you get nowhere, you just have melty silver chocolate chips in a silica cookie. And at 16 grams of silver per ton of ore, you can’t melt all the silica and recover the energy costs to heat a ton of ore to 2577 F. The real challenge here is to find a way to reduce the silica to ultrafine particles without a direct mechanical grinding operation, which has already proven to be prohibitively difficult due to tool wear.

  3. You are right… I didn’t RTFA… Now I did, and I have concluded that it isn’t worth it.

    As you noted, the 1 ton of the silica per 16 grams of ore, it simply isn’t worth it. Silver has a value of about $12USD per ounce, which 16g is about half an ounce. So you are going to have to find a way of processing a ton of ore using less than $6USD of man-hours, equipment, chemicals, etc. etc.

    Not possible. At least not by me. But then again, I am not a geological engineer. If there even is such a thing…

  4. Publicize the prize (BoingBoinged — so far so good). Sell small rock samples for home experimenters via an Ebay “Buy-it-now” Store, at (pre-shipping) $1 per ~100g sample, or $5 for 10 — this is about 1000 times the value of the silver. Wait for some budding mad scientist to get clever; break even meanwhile.

    Extracting the silver is less important than extracting the value of the silver. =)

  5. Yeah. I was kind of interested until I hit that 16 grams per ton figure. Man. I’d rather stay here at home in Puerto Rico and extract iron from the beach sand. (Magnetite, actually. Very fun to take a nice little rare-earth magnet to the beach and sort the sand grains with it.)

  6. sounds kinda sketchy tell me how to do and we will give you ten mil?? check is in the mail right?? seems to me you have ten mil to give away certainly you have the money to purchase crushing equipment right? we have the key to unlock the silver for real but we need to know what kind of crushing unit you are using access to chemicals also concerns on crushing silica we are willing to travel all expenses paid ?

  7. there might be a couple of ways to extract the silver. One would be heat, the other you might try ammonia.

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