The Royal Mint has revealed plans to build the worlds first plant to recover gold from electronic waste in Llantrissent, Wales
First off, this isn’t alchemy, The Royal Mint is simply setting its sights on recovering scrap gold that would otherwise go to landfill. Each year, 50 million tons of electronic waste is produced globally but only one-fifth of that is recycled. That number is set to increase to 74 million tons by the end of the decade.
The new facility goal is to help address that issue and support jobs and skills in Britain while also creating a new source of high-quality precious metals.
The process will take place at room temperature instead of using high temperature smelters that have been used elsewhere to process e-waste.
The plant has been made possible thanks to a partnership with Canadian tech start-up Excir. The Mint will rely on its patents to recover over 99% of the gold within circuit boards of laptops and mobile phones.
Chief growth officer Sean Millard explained that the technology will be ‘revolutionary’ in its potential to reduce the environmental footprint of electronic waste and that they “estimate that 99 per cent 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.”
Construction on the plant immediately and it will will be located within the existing The Royal Mint’s site in Llantrissent Wales. The Mint hope it will be fully operational in 2023, is want it to process at least 90 tonnes of UK-sourced circuit boards per week.
This should mean the mint is able to recover hundreds of kilograms of gold per year, and the plant will also create 40 jobs, as well as creating opportunities for current employees to re-skill as chemists and engineers.
The plant is an example of Engineering embracing circular economy principles – with the plant able to process entire circuit boards and preserving natural resources for longer.