On one side a printed circuit board, on the other only pure gold. The British Royal Mint introduced a revolutionary method of efficiently recycling this frequent electrical waste last October, when it signed a cooperation agreement with the Canadian company Excir. It is from her that a new method of extracting precious metal from plates comes. And it’s reportedly so effective that the British will start building a factory in South Wales this month. It should be in operation from next year.
“The difference between this technology and others is that the chemical compound eliminates gold and only gold. And that’s what makes it revolutionary, because it makes speeding up the whole process. Gold is excreted in the form of such a brown powder, but when you heat it, it turns into a pure gold ingot, ”Sean Millard, director of development at the Royal Mint, told AP.
At room temperature, without losses and ecologically
The process can also take place at room temperature. Unlike the incineration method commonly used, but for items with a higher gold content. And compared to other chemical routes (ammonia and sodium thiosulfates with 70% to 75% efficiency and cyanide with 88% efficiency), almost no precious metal is lost. It is said to last only a few seconds. The type of special compound was not revealed by the Canadians. However, it is allegedly not as aggressive and can also be recycled with minimal impact on the environment.
“In this way, we obtain up to 99% gold from the material at a purity level of 99.9%, and the board then simply continues on its way,” he adds.
A tonne of printed circuit boards may contain from 140 to 700 grams of gold, depending on the type. Which may seem like a small amount, but it’s actually more than a ton of ore from the mines. There is only five to ten grams of gold in it.
New place in the market. Hundreds of kilograms of cheaper gold a year
Once the British Mint’s recycling plant is in operation, it could estimate an estimated 4,680 tonnes of plates a year and generate hundreds of kilograms of gold. Its operation will be provided by about 40 employees.
“Your phone breaks down into components, which companies then collect for PCBs. And they then sell them to those called aggregators. These large organizations focus on collecting and transporting boards. We engage as an intermediate step before buying the board aggregators. There are about 250 authorized electrical waste processors with whom we can work in this way, “says Millard.
The British Mint has set itself the long-term goal of achieving 100% efficiency in the recycling of printed circuit boards. Not only gold, but also other metals such as copper, silver and palladium. And also plastics. In addition to the production of coins and commemorative medals, it wants to take a new place on the market as a buyer of electrical waste. He mainly wants to process laptops and mobile phones.
“It’s a new market. And this is one of the interesting challenges for us – to get something from consumers that has regained its purpose from waste and has been saved from becoming a by-product or going to landfill. It certainly has more value than what is mined in the mines, “adds the director of development of the British Royal Mint.
The Royal Mint of Great Britain thus wants to obtain gold in a sustainable way in its new factory and thus offer its products under the sustainability brand. But the company also bets that the precious metal produced in this way will be cheaper.
“We are a commercial organization. We would not do this without the transformation process paying off. So it’s something that allows us to be profitable, and we invest a lot in it because there is a reasonable return on it, “adds Millard, adding that only a factory is a” multimillion-dollar investment “for them.
The British Mint wants to prevent the outflow of electrical waste by chemically recycling gold in addition to its own profits. Every year, people in the world generate more than 50 million tonnes of waste, of which less than a fifth are recycled. In addition, according to a UN report, that amount could rise to 74 million tonnes a year by 2030 alone – if nothing changes.