Currently, the tin price is trading at an all-time high of more than US$32,000 per tonne. Typical PCBAs are estimated to contain 15 to 50 kilograms of tin per tonne, which has a gross value of approximately US$500 to US$1,600 per tonne. It is projected that the amount of PCBAs consumed will exceed 3 million tonnes annually by 2026. If this latest achievement proves successful, it could change the dynamics and economics of the entire e-scrap sector, as recyclers are not currently being paid for this valuable and strategic metal.
Duane Nelson, CEO of EnviroLeach, stated, "Our trials mark a critical breakthrough for the entire electronics sector. The cost-effective recovery of tin from PCBA scrap is a long-sought goal for the industry. This breakthrough technology could now lead to a significant secondary source of this critical and strategic metal. We are proud to be part of this important step that will provide a new entry into the circular economy of the electronics industry."
High recycling rate with simultaneous reusability of reagents.
An important finding is not only the high recycling rate itself, but also the reusability of the reagents used. Enviroleach used the reagents for 16 cycles and continuously achieved good recovery rates. This confirms the reusability of the leach solution, Enviroleach said. Reusability of reagents is important for both economic viability and the provision of a sustainable and eco-friendly process.
The most recent phase of the research program was conducted with low-grade PCBAs and focused on lock-cycle testing and further process development to determine preliminary economics. The lock-cycle tests were used to evaluate the reusability of the leach solution and to investigate the potential accumulation of impurities. This important step in process development significantly reduces reagent consumption and associated costs. It also allows for predictable process control and development of the final process flow sheet for subsequent pilot plant and full-scale plant design and construction. Closed-cycle reusability tests showed continuous recoveries averaging 84.2% over 16 cycles, confirming the reusability of the leach solution. Previous laboratory tests conducted on high-grade PCBA scrap concentrate material resulted in tin recoveries as high as 92.6% (see Company press release dated November 5, 2020).
The laboratory scale tin oxide product produced was sent to a tin refinery for detailed analysis and confirmation of suitability for refining and sale. The next stage of this research is to develop a pilot-scale plant to conduct bulk tests on a variety of PCBA-based concentrates to determine the final process technology and evaluate economics.
When combined with EnviroLeach's existing technology, the potential to recover tin could give EnviroLeach's process for processing PCBA scrap a significant economic advantage over other processing alternatives. EnviroLeach's current technology for processing PCBA scrap extracts valuable metals from PCBAs while reducing the volume of material sent to smelters. Enviroleach's recycling customers benefit from significantly lower downstream processing costs, higher metal payments and reduced environmental impact.
Tin use in electronics and ethical supply
Tin is used extensively in the manufacture of electronic components and PCBAs, primarily in solder. Tin is considered a critical or strategic mineral by multiple countries, including the USA and Canada, as important to national security and the economy. Increasing demand for tin is outstripping supply due to supply constraints as well as broader use in new technologies and global electrification applications. Recently, tin has risen in price to a ten-year high. While demand can be met through new sources, ethical sourcing of tin is becoming a critical issue. Tin is also considered a conflict mineral, since many virgin (i.e. mining) sources are located in areas of conflict and subject to illegal mining which funds ongoing civil conflict, violence and forced labor. Therefore, industry seeks conflict-free sources, which are limited. Recycled tin is very compelling as a traceable, ethical tin source that can be integrated into the circular economy principles of manufacturers and OEMs. Multiple manufactures include in their sustainability reports the focus to source conflict-free, sustainable tin including recycled metal.
According to §34b WpHG and according to paragraph 48f paragraph 5 BörseG (Austria) we would like to point out that principals, partners, authors and employees of GOLDINVEST Consulting GmbH hold or may hold shares of EnviroLeach Technologies and therefore a possible conflict of interest exists. We also cannot exclude that other stock letters, media or research firms discuss the stocks we recommend during the same period. Therefore, symmetrical information and opinion generation may occur during this period. Furthermore, there is a consulting or other service contract between EnviroLeach Technologies and GOLDINVEST Consulting GmbH, which means that there is a conflict of interest, especially since EnviroLeach Technologies remunerates GOLDINVEST Consulting GmbH for reporting on EnviroLeach Technologies.