Britain’s Royal Mint said on Wednesday it planned to build a plant in Wales that could reclaim hundreds of kilograms of gold and other precious metals from electronic waste such as mobile phones and laptops.
Gold and silver are highly conductive and small quantities are embedded in circuit boards and other hardware, along with other precious metals.
Most of this material is never recovered, with discarded electronics often dumped in landfill or incinerated.
The more than 1,100-year old mint said it had partnered with a Canadian start-up called Excir which has developed chemical solutions to extract the metals from the circuit boards.
“It’s able to selectively pull out precious metals with a high degree of purity,” said Sean Millard, the mint’s chief growth officer.
He said the mint was currently using the process at small scale while designing a plant that “would look to process hundreds of tonnes of e-waste per annum, generating hundreds of kilograms of precious metals”.
The plant should be up and running “within the next couple of years”, he said, declining to say how much it would cost.
A kilogram of gold is worth around $55,000 at current prices.
(By Peter Hobson; Editing by Jan Harvey)