The startup Mint Innovation wants to open the first commercial refinery in Cheshire, in northern England, where precious metals will be extracted from electronic waste. It will be the first facility to use bacteria rather than cyanide-based processes.
“The plants are very agricultural, more like a small microbrewery. The regulatory tailwind is for western nations to handle their own waste stream. We offer the same yield as the big smelters, the same level of service and quicker,” says Ollie Crush, Mint Innovation’s chief scientific officer. Their refineries are low-cost, green, and local to where the waste is being created. “Unlike the smelters, we do not use cyanide and we use less energy, less CO2, less water, less waste. A refinery can be popped into any nation, region or city.”
Every year, at least $10bn worth of gold, platinum, silver, and copper are dumped, which contribute to the growing amount of e-waste.