The development follows its recently announced partnership with Canadian tech start-up Excir, whose patented technology is said to be capable of recovering over 99 per cent of the gold within circuit boards of laptops and mobile phones, selectively targeting the metal in seconds.
The facility aims to help address a growing environmental issue, support jobs and skills in Britain, and create a new source of high quality precious metals for the business.
Construction of the plant begins this month. It will be located within The Royal Mint’s site and, when fully operational in 2023, is expected to process up to 90 tonnes of UK-sourced circuit boards per week.
This will generate hundreds of kilograms of gold per year, and is expected to support around 40 jobs, helping existing employees to reskill as well as recruiting new chemists and engineers.
Each year, over 50 million tonnes of electronic waste is produced globally but less than 20 per cent is recycled. Without intervention, this is set to reach 74 million tonnes by 2030.
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 plant. Embracing circular economy principles, the plant will process the entire circuit boards, preserving natural resources for longer.
Sean Millard, chief growth officer at The Royal Mint said that the technology introduced in partnership with Excir will offer a ‘revolutionary’ approach, offering huge potential to reduce environmental footprint of electronic waste.
“We estimate that 99 per cent of the UK’s circuit boards are currently shipped overseas to be processed at high temperatures in smelters,” Millard said.
“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.”