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New refinery using bacteria to recover precious metals planned for Cheshire.

New Zealand based Mint Innovation, plans to open the UK’s first commercial refinery for extraction precious metals from electronic waste. The refinery will use a bacteria-based process for recover the metal. The exact location of the new refinery has not been made public, but it is to be located somewhere in Cheshire and is due to open within a year.

New technology, material and software has led to a boom in the sale of electrical and electronic devices. There are now more devices connected to the internet than people on the planet. Growth of electrical and electronic goods is set to continue, which in turn will increase the amount of WEEE to be recycled.

Globally, 44.7 million tonnes of electronic waste were produced in 2016, 80% of which was sent to landfill, incinerated, illegally traded or treated in a sub-standard way. Europe and the US account for almost half of all electronic waste globally, with the EU predicted to produce 12 million tonnes by the end of 2020.

The UK is one of the worst offenders producing more electronic waste than the EU average. We are missing EU targets and are one of the worst for exporting waste to developing countries, who are ill equipped to dispose of it in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

Mint Innovation was established in 2016 to develop a bio-refinery that combines hydrometallurgy and biotechnology to safely extract metals including gold, palladium, silver and copper from electronic waste.

The key features of this type of refinery are that they are low cost, environmentally friendly, and local to where the waste is being created. Unlike a smelters it does not use cyanide and uses less energy, less CO2, less water and produces less waste. The plant is like a microbrewery and a refinery can be built into any region or city.’

The Cheshire plant will initially be able to process 20 tonnes of electronic waste per day, this can be scaled up in time if there is a demand.


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