Royal Mint trials machinery that extracts precious metals from e-waste

The Royal Mint has partnered with tech start-up Excir in order to pilot technology that retrieves and recycles precious metals from electronic waste.

Excir claims that their mechanism has the ability to recover 99 per cent of gold contained within the circuit boards of discarded laptops and mobile phones. This works through utilising chemicals that selectively target and extract the metals, such as gold, and once scaled up, palladium, silver, and copper.

E-wasteThe Royal Mint is currently working on the upsizing of the initiative from laboratory scale to mass production. This approach should see precious metals being recovered at the Royal Mint site in South Wales at room temperature, rather than in smelters located across the country at significant heat.

Annually, over 50 million tonnes of e-waste is produced across the globe, according to the Global E-Waste Monitor 2020. This figure is set to rise to 74 million tonnes if preventative action is not taken, with the tonnage almost doubling across the span of a decade. At present, less than 20 per cent of the amount of electronic refuse generated globally is recycled, meaning that the contained precious metals, amounting to US $57 billion in cost, are discarded as opposed to being collected for treatment and reuse.

The Royal Mint hopes that its initiative with Excir can reduce this figure, stating that it aims to foster the principles of circularity through handling e-waste in a ‘controlled and regulated manner’.

Anne Jessopp, Chief Executive, The Royal Mint, commented: “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, said: "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.”