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Royal Mint Using Circuit Board Gold

Electronic waste is piling up around the world at alarming rates. Inside every laptop and smartphone is an electronic circuit board - and gold is used as an insulator and a conductor of sensitive components.

Woman holding a circuit board in her right hand and a small gold nugget in her left
Credit: British Royal Mint

Now, the British Royal Mint has placed this gold at the centre of its sustainability strategy. The mint is using a patented new chemistry - created by Canadian-based Excir - to recover and reuse the gold, and other metals, within these old circuit boards.

“We estimate that 99 percent of the UK’s circuit boards are currently shipped overseas to be processed at high temperatures in smelters,” said Sean Millard, Chief Growth Officer at The Royal Mint. “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.”

The unique chemistry is capable of recovering almost 100 percent of the precious metals contained within electronic waste - selectively targeting the metal in seconds. However it is biodegradable, and has negligible impact on the environment.

Construction of a new plant in South Wales should be completed this year, and will be up and running in 2023 - and capable of processing 90 tons of circuit boards every week, extracting hundreds of kilograms of gold every year.

Embracing the principles of a circular economy, the plant will be able to process the entire circuit board - preserving natural resources for longer, helping to reduce the environmental impact of electronic waste and fostering new skills and employment in the UK.

Each year, more than 50 million tonnes of electronic waste is produced globally, with less than 20 percent currently being recycled.


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