The Royal Mint is building a plant to turn electronic waste into gold

While the amount of global electronic waste is surging, less than 20% is currently recycled. Soon, The Royal Mint in the UK will be pitching in by extracting gold from discarded laptops and mobile phones.

Using a chemical process developed by Calgary-based Excir, it will be able to recover over 99% of the precious metals found in circuit boards. When its new plant in South Wales is fully operational in 2023, The Royal Mint expects to process up to 90 metric tons of circuit boards every week, all sourced from the UK and providing hundreds of kilograms of gold per year.

The plant will support around 40 jobs — The Royal Mint is reskilling existing employees and hiring new chemists and engineers.

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The amount of e-waste created by our collective consumption is gargantuan — by 2030, the global total is likely to be 74.7 million metric tons. Most of that is currently offloaded to other countries; for a more sustainable approach, we need to start processing more discarded gadgets domestically.

As Sean Millard, Chief Growth Officer at The Royal Mint, explains: "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 tons of electronic waste each week, and providing a new source of high quality gold direct to The Royal Mint."

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