YIKES! Someone melted 200# silver watch batteries into a mess!

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Apr 12, 2015
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Hi friends, I just ran into something CRAZY I'm not sure how to process and I'm looking for advice?

Last year I bought an old building that at one time was leased to be a PM smelter. I ended up will all of the remaining equipment, supplies and odds and ends from this smelter/refiner who closed shop decades ago.

Yesterday, while digging through some of the stuff, I ran across a huge crucible from one of the big gas fired tilting furnaces. This particular crucible was still in nice shape but there has been something melted and left to cool inside. Why?? After smashing the crucible away from the ingot I can clearly see many half-melted watch battery cases sticking out of the giant glob. So I'm pretty sure this was a botched watch battery melt.

It looks as if many years ago someone thought that they'd just melt the silver out of roughly 300+# of old silver oxide batteries. I can imagine why they thought this would work - (and maybe it did) heating the mass to a point the silver would reduce, melt and could be decanted off - leaving the stainless steel husks to be scraped out of the crucible and discarded. And maybe that's what happened?!?

It's possible that the silver, or the largest part of it, melted and recovered and now what I have is 200+ pound chunk of stainless steel.

This is all one big piece that is roughly 16" across x 14" tall.

I thought I'd run into one of every possible 'botched' job by now but this is a new one one me. Not even sure where to start. I thought about trying to remelt it again but the cost to remelt this with up to 1000# of copper, to get 1200+ lbs of shot that I can refine may exceed the recovered silver value by tenfold. *I lose (don't bother to reclaim) all the copper I use to dilute PM bearing metals.

Any constructive opinions will certainly be appreciated. Thanks!
 

butcher

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I can just imagine he shut the burner down when it sounded like popcorn or machine gunfire in the shop.

silver makes a good solder it could solder the blob together, much really depended on conditions of the melt.
Can you tell if he was flux melting it (leaving the copious amount of glass slags)?

To test, one way I may try I could break off a small chunk (sample) weigh it and put it in a corning dish on a hot plate, add some of the waste ferric chloride solution and heat, concentrating the solution to a thick syrup (close to being a salt fusion process), then cooling and diluting with water, with a weight from the small chunk being tested previously, and the weight of silver chloride recovered you should be able to get an idea of silver content...
 

MrDRE447

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Be careful. Old silver oxide batteries contain mercury and not all of it may have dissipated during the earlier heating. I would advise using wet chemical methods to do the initial refining steps unless you have access to good ventilation for heating. The mercury should also factor into your waste disposal considerations.
 

Lino1406

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Is it certain? Mercury was contained in old nickel cadmium batteries, for a reason. What reason to put in silver batteries?
 

g_axelsson

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Up to 2004, silver oxide batteries contained up to 0.2% of mercury as a corrosion inhibitor in the zinc electrode. In 2004 the first silver oxide batteries without mercury appeared. Since then mercury have been slowly phased out. I don't know if there is any new batteries made today with mercury in them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver-oxide_battery

Göran
 

nickvc

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If you break a piece off I’d suggest getting an xrf reading , that should help decide the process to recover any values, another thought is are you sure it’s batteries and not silver tungsten points, l have seen those many times left in a crucible after a failed melt .
 

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