Turning e-waste into gold: The Royal Mint brings world-first sustainable precious metal technology to the UK

20 October 2021

Turning e-waste into gold: Royal Mint brings world-first sustainable precious metal technology to UK
Turning e-waste into gold: Royal Mint brings world-first sustainable precious metal technology to UK

Pioneering new technology will enable The Royal Mint to recover precious metals from discarded electronic devices such as mobile phones & laptops – providing a source of high-quality precious metals, while offering a solution to significant & growing environmental challenge of electronic waste. Helps secure a future for The Royal Mint as a leader in sustainably sourced precious metals & the circular economy in the UK.

The Royal Mint has signed an agreement with Canadian clean tech start-up, Excir to introduce a world first technology to the UK, which will enable it to safely retrieve and recycle gold and other precious metals from electronic waste.

Excir’s patented technology, based on revolutionary chemistry, recovers 99%+ of gold from electronic waste, contained within the circuit boards of discarded laptops and mobile phones. The chemistry selectively targets and extracts precious metals from circuit boards in seconds – offering a new solution to the world’s fastest-growing waste stream.

Each year, more than 50 million tonnes of electronic waste (e-waste) is produced globally – equivalent in weight to 350 cruise ships the size of the Queen Mary 2! According to The Global E-waste Monitor 2020, if nothing is done, this is set to reach 74 million tonnes by 2030 – almost a doubling of tonnage in a decade.

Less than 20% of electronic waste is currently recycled worldwide. This means that gold, silver, copper, palladium and other highly valued metals conservatively valued at US $57 billion – a sum greater than the gross domestic product of most countries – are mostly discarded as opposed to being collected for treatment and reuse, according to The Global E-waste Monitor 2020.

Scientists and engineers at The Royal Mint are now working to grow the innovative technology from laboratory scale to mass production. 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 site in South Wales. Initial use of the technology at The Royal Mint has already produced gold with a purity of 999.9, and when fully scaled up, the process has potential to also recover palladium, silver and copper.

Royal Mint electronic waste reclaim infographic
Royal Mint electronic waste reclaim infographic

Embracing the principles of a circular economy, The Royal Mint and Excir technology has the potential to ensure electronic waste is handled in a controlled and regulated manner – preserving natural resources for longer, helping to reduce the environmental impact of e-waste and fostering new skills and employment in the UK.

Anne Jessopp, Chief Executive, The Royal Mint said: “We are immensely proud to partner with Excir to bring this world first technology to the UK. It provides us the opportunity to make a genuine impact on one of the world’s greatest environmental challenges while helping to secure our future as a leader in high quality, sustainable precious metals.

This partnership represents a significant milestone for The Royal Mint as we reinvent for the future as the home of precious metals in the UK. The potential of this technology is huge – reducing the impact of electronic waste, preserving precious commodities, and forging new skills which help drive a circular economy.

Jim Fox, Chief Executive Officer of Excir said: “The team at Excir feel extremely fortunate to be working alongside The Royal Mint to scale Excir’s patented technology from laboratory to mass production over the coming years. Their 1,100 years of expertise in precious metals and innovation, coupled with a desire to foster new skills and benefit the environment, made them the ideal partner for us.

Sean Millard, Chief Growth Officer at The Royal Mint comments: “The Royal Mint has thrived for over 1,100 years thanks to our entrepreneurial spirit, and the Excir technology complements our ambition to be a leader in sustainable precious metals. The chemistry is revolutionary and capable of recovering precious metals from electronic devices in seconds. It offers huge potential for The Royal Mint and the circular economy – helping to reuse our planet’s precious resources and creating new skills in the UK.


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