A New Zealand company aiming to be the leading provider of “circular green metals”, and to cut reliance on raw material extraction, picked up the InnovationAus 2023 Award for Excellence in Manufacturing Innovation at an event this week in Sydney, Australia.
“Urban mining pioneer” Mint Innovation won the gong for its low-impact biorefineries that extract metals from waste materials and old tech devices such as smartphones, computers, gaming consoles and washing machines.
The Auckland-based company, formed in 2016, cites United Nations estimates that 7% of the world’s gold might be hidden in electronic waste, and that just 20% of this is recycled. An estimated $80 billion of valuable metals are discarded in consumer waste each year. Mint says its natural biomass process and smart chemistry can extract green metals from waste commercially.
“We are pretty much focused around the recovery of metals out of e-waste locally,” chief technology officer Johann Havenga said at the awards.
“We have the e-waste streams in our backyard. We want to recover those metals in our backyards, keep the metals here in Australia for our industry to use and to prosper for all of us going forward.”
The Auckland-based company has a factory in Sydney where circuit boards from old devices are put on a conveyor belt and broken down to the size of sand in a hammer mill. A chemical process and natural biomass is then used to separate the metals and bake them into a gold-laden ash, which can be sold back to manufacturers for use in new electronics products, medical devices and jewellery.
The Sydney facility already processes 3000 tonnes of circuit boards each year.
Mint Innovation closed a NZ$55 million series C funding round earlier this year, backed by Australian private equity firm Liverpool Partners. It raised $NZ20 million via a series B round in 2020.
The InnovationAus 2023 Awards for Excellence are supported by Investment NSW, AusIndustry, Australian Computer Society, Technology Council of Australia, Agile Digital, CSIRO, TechnologyOne, IP Australia, METS Ignited and Q-CTRL.