Urban mining pioneer Mint Innovation has won the InnovationAus 2023 Award for Excellence in Manufacturing Innovation for its low-carbon mining alternative recycling metals from old tech devices.
The InnovationAus 2023 Awards for Excellence were presented on Wednesday night at a black-tie gala dinner at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney.
Mint Innovation chief technology officer Johann Havenga said it was an honour to be recognised among Australia’s best innovators.
“It’s the pinnacle of great team effort for the company, to be able to showcase what we do, how we provide an avenue for e-waste to be recycled in Australia,” Mr Havenga said.
The Manufacturing Innovation Award was presented on the night by federal Department of Industry, Science and Resources head of division for commercialisation, Nick Purtell.
The Manufacturing Innovation category celebrates the Australian companies driving new technologies to help Australia in its post-Covid efforts to revamp domestic manufacturing and improve sovereign capability.
Industrial policy and advanced manufacturing was a major focus in Australia’s post-pandemic rebuild and is a significant plank in the Labor government’s policy platform. The landmark National Reconstruction Fund will provide ample opportunities for local tech companies to access support to assist with these aims.
Mint Innovation was awarded the accolade for its world-leading techniques to extract gold and other precious metals from old tech devices, such as smartphones, computers, gaming consoles and washing machines.
The United Nations has estimated that 7 percent of the world’s gold might be hidden in electronic waste, and that just 20 percent of this is recycled. It’s also estimated that each year $80 billion-worth of valuable metals are discarded in consumer waste.
Mint Innovation is looking to solve this challenge using natural biomass and smart chemistry to extract green metals from waste commercially. Its technology is easy to deploy and can be used where the waste is collected.
“We are pretty much focused around the recovery of metals out of e-waste locally,” Mr Havenga said.
“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, where a hammer mill breaks them down to the size of sand. 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. It offers a low-carbon circular economy alternative to mining, and helps to make sure that no byproduct goes to waste.
Mr Havenga said it is essential that Australia develops it precision manufacturing capability.
“For us to be at the forefront in manufacturing, we need to clean the slate and rethink the way we actually manufacture in Australia,” he said. “I think the technology element is absolutely a good example of what we need to do for Australia and for our future going forward.”
Mint Innovation has received a $55 million investment from Australian private equity firm Liverpool Partners, and a $NZ20 million Series B round in 2020.
It was founded in 2016 by Will Barker and Ollie Crush.
The InnovationAus 2023 Awards for Excellence are proudly supported by Investment NSW, AusIndustry, Australian Computer Society, Technology Council of Australia, Agile Digital, CSIRO, TechnologyOne, IP Australia, METS Ignited and Q-CTRL.
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