Published 26 January 2024

Share this story

Our Defence Equipment Sales Authority (DESA) has partnered with The Royal Mint to provide an innovative and sustainable solution for the disposal of redundant electronic defence equipment.

It is estimated that around 7% of the world’s gold is contained within electronic waste and it remains one of the fastest-growing waste streams in the world. The Royal Mint is using patented technology – created by Canada-based company Excir – to recover precious metals contained within circuit boards at ambient temperatures.

The approach reduces the environmental impact of electronic waste and embraces the principles of a circular economy based on reuse and regeneration.

The Royal Mint’s pioneering plant in South Wales, designed to recover gold and other precious metals from electronic devices, is due to be unveiled early this year.

With shared commitments on sustainability and security, the partnership with DESA,  the sole authority within MOD for the sale of surplus military equipment from UK Armed Forces, will mean tonnes of equipment, which typically contains high levels of gold and other rare metals, will be securely processed each year.

Richard Whalley, Head DESA, said:

“DESA is constantly searching for new ways to improve our recycling portfolio by reuse, resale or, as in this case, by recovery of valuable metals which will return to the UK economy.

“This innovative partnership with The Royal Mint, successfully delivered by our Innovation Team, is a key enabler for MOD’s continuing sustainability and circular economy journey.

“It is DESA’s pleasure to work with The Royal Mint to convert redundant non-saleable defence assets into a valuable resource, while also reducing disposal costs, minimising environmental impacts and securing the UK’s access to this new source of critical minerals.”

The innovative South Wales plant will use world-first patented chemistry from Excir to recover gold with provenance, and extract value from every element of the asset and its component circuit boards – including silver and copper – using other processes developed by the Royal Mint.

These materials can then be purchased by The Royal Mint to help fulfil its ambition of using sustainably sourced precious metals in its products, or returned for reuse by the MOD.

Mark Loveridge, Business Unit Director for Precious Metals Recovery at The Royal Mint, said:

“At The Royal Mint, sustainability remains front and centre in the decisions we make and the partnerships we form, and we’re pleased to announce a partnership with DESA, who will provide a regular source of materials to our Precious Metals Recovery Plant.

“The Royal Mint’s new plant has the capability to recover gold and other precious metals from circuit boards in large quantities here in the UK, at ambient temperatures; safely recovering materials from the entire circuit board.

“We are proud to be working with partners from across the UK, including DESA, allowing The Royal Mint to become a leader in sustainable precious metals.”

Jennifer Willis, DESA Head Recycling, and Mark Loveridge, Business Unit Director for Precious Metals Recovery at The Royal Mint, sign a sales agreement between DESA and The Royal Mint.

Once fully operational early this year, the multi-million-pound plant will be capable of processing up to 75 tonnes of electronic components per week – the equivalent of 75 small cars – producing hundreds of kilograms of gold each year.

Minister of State for Defence, The Earl of Minto, said:

“It is fantastic to see this new, innovative technology being used to recycle old defence equipment. Finding new ways to reduce the costs of disposing of our waste whilst minimising our impact on the environment is a valuable area of work. I very much look forward to seeing the positive impact of the new facility in Wales.”