How Precious Metal Recovery Methods Put the Semiconductor Industry at Risk

Second in a 3 Part Series on Protecting the Semiconductor Industry.


Semiconductor manufacturing companies often take on unnecessary risks when they conduct business overseas. In fact, running a semiconductor manufacturing plant overseas presents 3 major risks when it comes to the reclamation of their precious metals:

    1. Penalties and Fines
    2. Loss of Revenue
    3. Theft of Intellectual Property


These risks, when not addressed, create significant problems that ultimately impact the overall health of the semiconductor manufacturing company.

Know Your Precious Metals Recovery Methods 


Understanding how different precious metal recovery methods work is the second of three ways that Security Directors, Environmental Managers, & Reclaim Managers can create greater security for their semiconductor manufacturing company and the industry as a whole.

First, there are several different methods for precious metals processing and it’s important to know which methods should be used for particular products. Using the incorrect method can not only leave money on the table for you, but it can put your company at risk for environmental damages.

Pyrometallurgical methods include:

  • Burning
  • Milling
  • Screening
  • Blending
  • Melting


This process is best for items with encapsulated precious metals with base metals like copper, iron, nickel, etc. Materials that are best treated in this method would be circuit boards, processors, IC’s, and other plastic encapsulated devices form the medical and defense industries.

Chemical-based methods include:

  • Hydrometallurgy
  • Chemical Stripping
  • Chemical Leaching


These methods are only as effective as the chemistry – or the operator – allows them to be. And they are fine for cleaning kits, parts, shielding with exposed gold, and parts that may be returned to the client. However, many overseas precious metals reclamation companies also employ these methods for items like circuit boards, processors and other devices which certainly is less effective.

Why Is This a Risk?


Second, you want to understand the risks involved with the different recovery methods.

    1. Chemical-based methods use cyanide and various acids to strip external metal from the circuit boards and processors. The use of these substances may pose environmental risks. Improper handling and disposing of these chemicals opens the semiconductor manufacturing company to fines.
    2. These harsh substances also pose risks to the workers if they are not equipped with the correct safety clothing, masks, and ventilation.
    3. Chemical processing does not recover the encapsulated metal in circuit boards and processors – leaving copper and other precious metals behind is leaving money behind for your company.


In the end, it is incumbent upon you to learn exactly what methods are being used to recover your precious metals. Otherwise, you may expose your company to significant risks.

Protect Your Company. Reduce Your Risk


Finally, given the large amount of metal being processed through the semiconductor industry, the potential for monetary loss is huge so you want to choose your precious metals reclamation company carefully.

Next week, I’ll share the third of three ways that the semiconductor industry can reduce risk protect its investment. If you’d like to jump ahead and learn all three at once, plus the top 3 critieria for evaluating your precious metals reclamation company, you can download our full report now.

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