Japan strikes gold from cremated ashes. And silver. And palladium.
Japanese cities are profiting from the sale of precious metals sifted from cremated ashes…as the country attempts to cash in on a potentially huge “urban mine” of gold, silver and palladium. Several cities, including Tokyo, have earned millions of yen from the sale of rare elements found in capped teeth and artificial bones.
The precious metals are being retrieved from ashes and bone fragments left behind after the family of the deceased have completed the ritual of packing some of the bones into an urn for burial.
While the practice has ugly historical precedents – the Nazis routinely searched for gold in the ashes of murdered concentration camp prisoners – the Japanese authorities have the law on their side.
In 1939, the supreme court ruled that any leftover ashes not taken away by bereaved relatives belonged to the municipality; any income they generate is considered part of the city’s miscellaneous income…
“There’s nothing illegal about it, so it’s not something we can condemn outright,” said Yuji Moriyama, of the Japan Society of Environmental Crematory. “But personally, I think it’s wrong. We’re talking about human beings, not mobile phones.
Frankly, I don’t worry more about recycling human beings and their artifacts than any other useful commodity.