Turning garbage into gold: UK’s Royal Mint to recover precious metals from e-waste

It will use new chemistry to recover gold within the circuit boards of laptops and mobile phones

Net Hero Podcast

The Royal Mint is planning to build what it claims will be the world’s first plant to recover gold from electronic waste in the UK.

It will use new chemistry, created by Canadian-based Excir, to recover precious metals within the circuit boards of laptops and mobile phones.

Located within The Royal Mint’s site in South Wales, the facility is expected to process up to 90 tonnes of UK-sourced circuit boards per week, generating hundreds of kilograms of gold per year.

The unique chemistry to extract the gold is said to be capable of recovering more than 99% of the precious metals contained within electronic waste, selectively targeting the metal “in seconds”.

Every year, more than 50 million tonnes of electronic waste is produced globally, with less than 20% currently being recycled – and if nothing is done, the figure is set to rise to 74 million tonnes by 2030.

The Royal Mint’s plant will be able to process the entire circuit board, preventing electronic waste from leaving UK shores to be processed at high temperatures in smelters and helping reduce the environmental impact of electronic waste.

The new business venture will also support around 40 jobs.

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.”