Recovering precious metals from used electronic boards: the adventurous life of new gold miners

Christian THOMAS

Co-founder, Terra Nova and Sanou Koura

Seminar Economy and meaning | Wednesday May 5, 2021 - 9h00 - 11h30

Electronic boards account for 60% of the tantalum, 60% of the indium, 20% of the lithium, 20% of the antimony, 10% of the palladium and 10% of the rare-earth elements produced in the world. But the problem is that it is almost impossible to retrieve them, as these materials are so intertwined, embedded in fibreglass and resin. Yet, two French engineers came up with an original process. They convinced a deep-pocketed business angel, obtained subsidies and an operating permit to launch production in an Arcelor Mittal factory. In 2006, the future belongs to them at the head of the company Terra Nova, but the subprime mortgage crisis and the collapse of their business angel seem to condemn the project. But this was without taking into account the uncommon ability of these two entrepreneurs to bounce back. After many episodes during which their project should have sunk, they will finally start production in 2021. Here is the story of a positive energy and zero waste metallurgical project.

Economy cycle

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This session was published in issue n°151 of the Journal de l'École de Paris du management, entitled La symbiose pour horizon.

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