The Royal Mint has announced plans to build a “world first” plant in South Wales to recover gold from UK electronic waste. The facility will help address a growing environmental issue, support jobs and skills in Britain, and create a new source of high quality precious metals for the business.
The government-owned mint is using patented new chemistry – created by Canadian based Excir – to recover gold within the circuit boards of laptops and mobile phones. The chemistry is said to be capable of recovering over 99% of the precious metals contained within electronic waste – selectively targeting the metal “in seconds”.
Construction of the plant begins this month, and it will be located within The Royal Mint’s highly secure site to provide a stream of gold directly into the business. When fully operational in 2023, The Royal Mint says it expects to process up to 90 tonnes of UK-sourced circuit boards per week – generating hundreds of kilograms of gold per year. In addition, the new business venture “will support around 40 jobs, helping existing employees to reskill as well as recruiting new chemists and engineers”.
Each year, more than 50 million tonnes of electronic waste is produced globally, with less than 20% currently being recycled. If nothing is done, this is set to reach 74 million tonnes by 2030.
Instead of electronic waste leaving UK shores to be processed at high temperatures in smelters, the approach will see precious metals recovered at room temperature at The Royal Mint’s plant in South Wales. Embracing the principles of a circular economy, the plant will be able to process the entire circuit board – preserving natural resources for longer, helping to reduce the environmental impact of electronic waste and fostering new skills and employment in the UK.
Anne Jessopp, Chief Executive of The Royal Mint, said: “We are transforming our business for the future – expanding into areas which complement our expertise in precious metals, champion sustainability and support employment. Our investment in a new plant will see The Royal Mint become a leader in sustainably sourced precious metals and provide the UK with a much-needed domestic solution to the growing problem of electronic waste.”
Sean Millard, Chief Growth Officer at The Royal Mint said: “Working with our partners Excir, we have introduced world first technology to the UK capable of recovering precious metals from electronic waste in seconds. This approach is revolutionary and offers huge potential to reuse our planet’s precious resources, reduce the environmental footprint of electronic waste and create new jobs.
“We estimate that 99% of the UK’s circuit boards are currently shipped overseas to be processed at high temperatures in smelters. As the volume of electronic waste increases each year, this problem is only set to become bigger. When fully operational our plant will be the first of its kind in the world – processing tonnes of electronic waste each week, and providing a new source of high quality gold direct to The Royal Mint.”