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Climate Tech: The Royal Mint

Striking gold

Paving the path to net zero: investing in clean technology.

Our local energy centre and precious metals recovery plant are two significant infrastructure investments that help demonstrate we’re committed to working more sustainably.

Inga Doak

Head of Sustainability, The Royal Mint

Prioritising a net zero plan

One of the world’s oldest companies, The Royal Mint has been striking coins since the ninth century and has a rich and fascinating heritage. Though rightly proud of its past, it has a very modern mindset. Its Head of Sustainability, Inga Doak, explains how it’s using the latest facilities, equipment and techniques that have sustainability at their core.

This year, The Royal Mint was delighted to have its net zero targets validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). For Inga, this was an important milestone and validation of their carbon reduction ambitions.

How has The Royal Mint made cleantech part of its operations?

“We wanted to develop a net zero strategy that was comprehensive, covering not just scope one and two emissions - which we have the most control over, but also scope three emissions, including those in our supply chain. It also needed to be internationally recognised, and based on the best available science,” she explains. Even so, Inga is keen to emphasise that the journey has only just begun. “Getting the validation was comprehensive – it took collaboration and investment. But it was essentially a paper-based exercise. The real work starts now,” she says. And that’s central to the Mint’s mindset. “We're over 1,100 years old, and we absolutely want to celebrate, respect and cherish that legacy,” explains Inga. “But at the same time, we've got to be looking forward and ensuring that we continue that legacy for another 1,100 years with cleantech playing an important part in our decarbonisation activities.”

According to our research

68% of businesses surveyed said they currently have a carbon reduction action plan in place.
77% of businesses are aware of the role of cleantech in reaching net zero.

Inga believes that all businesses should be taking steps: “every UK business, no matter how large or small, should have a carbon reduction strategy in place, whether that’s one page or 100 pages. Cleantech solutions could play a really important role in delivering on that strategy,” she says.

Local energy centre

In July 2023, The Royal Mint launched its local energy centre (LEC) in Llantrisant, Wales, with its project partner, Infinite Renewables. Helping power its 38-acre manufacturing site, the LEC provides The Royal Mint with both local and renewable sources of power through a 4,000-panel solar farm, a wind turbine named ‘Bryn’ (by staff vote), and a combined heat and power plant and dual chemistry battery storage facility. The aim for this huge and impressive undertaking is to generate 70% of the power used across the site. “This should help provide us with a greener, dependable source of electricity generation, reducing our reliance on the national grid,” explains Inga.

Precious metals recovery plant

Its second major undertaking is a precious metals recovery plant, which uses trailblazing cleantech innovations. “We've partnered with the Canadian startup, Excir, to use their patented chemistry to recover gold and other precious metals from the printed circuit boards found in mobile phones, laptops and other IT hardware,” says Inga. She explains that what’s particularly unique about the process is that the gold can be recovered at room temperature and in seconds.

The current processing route for printed circuit boards is typically high temperature smelting or, at worst, uncontrolled processing in less regulated environments. We've demonstrated this new lower carbon technology in the lab, and are scaling this up through a new purpose-built facility on site.

The importance of partnerships

Working with an experienced infrastructure installation partner helped smooth the process for the LEC project. The same company installed their wind turbine, ‘Delilah’, in 2018. But the metals recovery plant was unchartered territory, with its own challenges – not least taking the technology from the lab to industrial scale.

“This meant that we couldn't buy most of the equipment off the shelf but have had to customise the design and manage the manufacture and installation of that equipment,” says Inga. The team knew they wanted to identify alternative approaches to sourcing gold (and particularly wanted to increase sourcing streams for recycled gold) but didn’t have a clear solution. Indeed, 33% of businesses surveyed find identifying cleantech an issue. But after several months of intensive research, a colleague discovered Excir.

As well as the benefits of working with third-party partners that share their vision, Inga highlights how having colleague buy-in has been invaluable. Achieving this has included sharing a clear purpose of the projects, and how this aligns with the overall business strategy.

Benefits beyond decarbonisation

Along with impressive decarbonisation benefits, the LEC offers operational and financial benefits. “It's helping us manage our energy costs, which are front and centre for a lot of organisations at the moment,” says Inga. “And it's also ensuring reliability of supply, because we're generating our own electricity on site, and we can control the supply on that power source.”

When launched, the precious metals recovery plant will provide The Royal Mint with a unique source of recycled gold, which is an important part of its business strategy. It will also showcase an alternative, more sustainable method for managing electronic waste, which is commonly acknowledged as one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world. Just as critical is that the new plant will enable them to diversify the business and sustain local employment in the region.

“Both projects help demonstrate we're serious when it comes to sustainability,” says Inga. “They are two significant infrastructure investments that show our commitment, not least in terms of decarbonising the business.”

But the path to net zero is by its nature a work in progress. “We're still learning and adapting as a business,” she explains. “We're always trying to do better, whether within our net zero or broader sustainability performance. It's important that businesses start that journey and start it today, and then work on refining it as they go along.”

Working with Barclays

Our first daffodil-inspired wind turbine, ‘Delilah’, was funded through a Barclays standard term loan. That was essentially our first green capital expenditure project. In some respects, Delilah paved the way for our local energy centre.

Inga Doak

Head of Sustainability, The Royal Mint

More recently, Barclays and The Royal Mint have explored the commercial benefits of sustainability-linked finance. Inga also enjoyed speaking at Barclays’ Creating Sustainable Futures event. “It was a great opportunity to bring different businesses together to discuss the challenges of getting started, but also the importance of thinking of net zero and sustainability more broadly as an opportunity and a benefit,” she says.

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