February 22, 2024

The Queens County Citizen

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Thetford Mines | A second life for 200 tonnes of electronic waste

Thetford Mines |  A second life for 200 tonnes of electronic waste

Quebec will become a world leader in the recovery of electronic waste, within a year of opening a pilot plant at Thetford Mines that can process 200 tonnes of printed circuits a year to extract metals.

Ultimately, we want to build a commercial plant capable of processing 5000 tons of waste by 2025, with an investment estimated at 150 million.

Initially, the $13 million pilot plant project was led by a new company, enim, co-founded by two partners in the field, Montreal engineering firm Seneca and Toronto mining company Dundee. The pilot plant, which will employ around fifty people, will be housed at the Thetford Mines facilities of a subsidiary of Dundee Sustainable Technologies.

From June 2020 to last April, Hydro-Québec, the head of InnovHQ subsidiary Simon Racicot-Daignault, managed the company Enim (palindrome of “mine”). “One of our greatest strengths is our two partners, people with very strong technical and operational experience,” he explains. Seneca is notably part of the RecycleLithium Consortium, which has developed a process for recycling automotive lithium-ion batteries. As for Dundee Sustainable Technologies, it specializes in the extraction and disposal of ore.

Photo by Hugo-Sebastian Aubert, Pres

Simon Racicot-Daignault, CEO of the firm Enim, said it would open a pilot plant at Thetford Mines within a year, capable of processing up to 200 tonnes of printed circuits.

Between 95 and 99% extraction

The aim of this pilot plant at Thetford Mines: to validate the patented process on an industrial scale with a small footprint for the extraction of various metals contained in printed circuits. These printed circuits come from Quebec’s program for recycling electronic equipment, of which 175,000 tons have been recovered since 2012. Printed circuits “are essentially sent to the Horn Foundry to be fired there,” Mr. Racicot explained. -Dignault. Some of these circuits are also sent to recyclers such as eCycle, Quantum Lifecycle and FCM Recycling.

A process of rarely achieved efficiency was developed in the laboratories of the Center for the Study of Chemical Processes of Quebec (CEPROCQ, affiliated to the Collège de Maisonneuve). Based on hydrometallurgy, it is possible to extract “between 95 and 99%” of metals such as gold, silver, platinum, palladium, copper and aluminum from printed circuits.

Enim’s CEO explains that a single circuit board contains 10 to 100 times more gold than the same amount of gold ore. When we have plenty of metals scattered around our electronic devices, we pay fortunes to open mining sites and accept that some of them will be exported.

Simon Racicot-Daignault, CEO of Enim

The transition from laboratory to industrial validation is one of the greatest challenges ahead for enim. Its CEO has no doubt demonstrated the profitability of the process. “All our analyzes show profitability and our tests confirm it. A company may be environmentally-responsible, but if it is not profitable it is not sustainable. Without profitability, we know there is no tomorrow. »

7500 Eiffel Towers

Apart from purely accounting considerations, recycling electronic waste is an inevitable environmental challenge, Mr. Racicot-Daignault opined. “There is a whole current in society, we see it with the discussion around the horn foundry. Society is ripe for a broader debate, and it’s not just about economics. »

While environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria are high for business managers, enim’s CEO believes that recycled metals have an added value that makes them more attractive. Last April, a giant like Apple, for example, announced that 20% of the materials used for its electronic devices were recycled, using certified recycled gold for the first time, and using cobalt, tungsten and recycled rare earths. Doubled.

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“Our ambition is not only Quebec, it is truly global: we know that the raw material will increase, the forecasts are unstable, stressed the CEO of Anim. According to UN estimates, 75 million tons of electronic waste will be produced annually in 2030, which is equivalent to 7,500 Eiffel Towers. »

Learn more

  • 17.4%
    Proportion of obsolete electronic and electrical equipment in the world that is recycled

    Source: International Telecommunications Union (UN), Global Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Tracker for 2020

  • 57 billion US
    The value of raw materials in the amount of electronic and electrical waste generated worldwide. By comparison, the total value of mined minerals in Canada in 2021 will be $55.5 billion, according to Natural Resources Canada.

    Source: International Telecommunications Union (UN), Global Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Tracker for 2020

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