Rockwell Automation is working with The Royal Mint to design, build, and commission a facility to safely recover valuable metals from electronic products.
The Royal Mint announced its new factory, a world-first, earlier this year. When fully operational in 2023, the 3,500m2facility to be built in South Wales is expected to process up to 90 tons of UK-sourced circuit boards per week.
Waste electrical equipment (along with electronics and collectively known as e-waste) is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the UK and the world, with less than 20 per cent currently recycled worldwide. In the UK we are throwing away over 300,000 tons of electrical items each year and hoarding another 527 million items. More than 95 tons of precious metals including gold, silver, and palladium – equivalent to £857 million – could be recycled from unwanted electricals each year.
The Royal Mint is using patented chemistry to recover more than 99 per cent of gold and other materials from electronic waste contained within the circuit boards of discarded laptops and mobile phones.
Building on a 15-year relationship with The Royal Mint, Rockwell Automation’s Lifecycle Services team is delivering a multi-million pound turnkey process design and PlantPAx distributed control system to help reduce the environmental impact of e-waste management in the UK, supporting The Royal Mint in meeting its broader sustainability goals. In the process, the circuit boards are fed via a conveyor system into a reactor and the resulting sludge then undergoes separation, sorting, and filtering to deliver the reclaimed metals.
Phil Hadfield, UK managing director at Rockwell Automation says: “The wealth of knowledge and capability that Rockwell Automation has allows us to ensure that this facility is as efficient, viable and user-friendly as possible. We are proud to continue our working relationship with The Royal Mint to create a new source of high-quality precious metals for the business and help with the global challenge of electrical waste.”
When fully scaled up the new purpose-built facility will ensure all e-waste processed on-site is handled in a controlled and regulated manner. Aligned with circular economy principles, the planned recovery of precious metals and other materials will help to preserve natural resources, reduce the environmental impact of smelting UK’s e-waste and foster new skills and employment in the South Wales.
“This technology provides us with 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,” Sean Millard, chief growth officer at The Royal Mint, said. “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.”