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Electrowinning for Precious Metals Extraction from Water or Wastewater Solution

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

Electrowinning is a process that extracts metals, such as gold and copper, from any water or wastewater by applying an electrical field to electrodes immersed in the solution.

Continue reading this article to learn more about this this technology and its advantages.

What Is Electrowinning (or Electroextraction)?

Electrowinning (or Electroextraction) is a process of whereby metals, such as gold, silver and copper, are recovered from a solution by means of electrolytic chemical reaction. This takes place when an electric current is passed through the solution.

During the process, electrons from the electric current chemically reduce the metal ions, to form a solid metal compound on the cathode (the negatively charged electrode). The metal is deposited in a form that can be readily smelted easily into a more usable form. The metals will frequently have been put into the solution, from the ores, using a leaching process.

Electrowinning Reactor Equipment for Metals Extraction
Electrowinning Equipment for Metals Extraction

Electrowinning Equipment Configuration

An Electrowinning Equipment features the following components:

  1. Main Reactor Tank;

  2. Electrodes Sets placed in the reactor;

  3. Recirculation System;

  4. Pumps;

  5. Power Supply.

As we can see the configuration of an electrowinning equipment is similar to the one used for electrocoagulation. Also the working principle is similar since metal ions are released by the electrodes to coagulate metals in the solution.

Electrowinning Process for Metal Extraction from Solution

Electrowinning process is used in many applications, including metal extraction and pollutants reduction for the treatment of industrial wastewaters.

Some of the most useful applications for electrowinning processes are:

Thanks to electrowinning heavy metals can be recovered from waste water and can be recycled for further use in industrial processes.

Electrowinning of Copper from Industrial Wastewaters

Copper Extracted by Electrowinning

As we all know, heavy metal pollution, such as copper, is one of the most serious environmental issues nowadays.

The removal and re-use of such metals is crucial for the sustainable growth of metal industries.

Thanks to Electrowinning systems we can remove and recover metals from industrial effluents. In fact, the removal of one common pollutant, such as copper, from synthetic wastewaters and complex metallurgical plant wastewater (containing copper, iron, aluminium, zinc, nickel, arsenic, sulphur and lead among others) can be performed by electrowinning processes.

Electrowinning of Gold

Electrowinning is a way to separate pure gold from other metals in a given solution.

In many circumstances the electrowinning processes are used to extract the gold from the ore material.

Similarly to copper extraction, the electrowinning of gold consists of passing an electric current through a solution of chloride salts, which causes the gold to form tiny particles. These particles are then collected and transferred to a refining tank where the gold remains in its pure form.

The electrowinning unit for gold extraction uses transformers, copper circuit boards and copper wiring to generate an electric current strong enough to separate gold from other metals.

Electrowinning Advantages

Electrowinning is considered as a smart solution to extract metals form any solution. Among the advantages we can list:

  • Very low power consumption require to extract metals from any solutions;

  • Wide applicability to most metal extraction, including gold, copper, nickel, and zinc;

  • Simple and economical solution;

  • Easy to setup and run.

Electrowinning Disadvantages

Electrowinning applicability has its drawbacks in applications where time and flowrate are constraint.

  • Extracting time can take long time because of the low reaction rate of the electrowinning process;

  • The solution composition may affect the final extraction rate.


Considered the pros and cons of an electrowinning equipment it's always best to consult with our technology experts to choose the correct equipment configuration. For any questions or inquiries about our electrowinning equipment you can reach out at


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