The Royal Mint has announced it is building a plant to turn old laptops and mobile phones into gold. The ‘world first’ facility will recover precious metals from discarded electronic devices.
The mint, which produces all the UK’s coins, says it will provide a source of high-quality precious metals and offer a solution to “significant and growing environmental challenges”. It says new technology created by Canadian-based Excir will be used to recover gold from the circuit boards of old equipment.
Construction of the plant, within the Royal Mint’s secure site in South Wales, begins this month. When fully operational in 2023, The Royal Mint expects to process up to 90 tonnes of UK-sourced circuit boards per week – generating hundreds of kilograms of gold per year. It will support around 40 jobs.
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.”
Each year, more than 50 million tonnes of electronic waste is produced globally, with less than 20% currently being recycled. Instead of electronic waste leaving UK shores to be processed at high temperatures in smelters, the new approach will see precious metals recovered at room temperature.
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.”