BlueOak Resources, a leader in the sustainable sourcing of high-value metals from e-waste, and brainchild of co-founders Priv Bradoo & Bryce Goodman, today announced it has partnered with the Arkansas Teachers' Retirement Fund, a consortium of European and domestic investors, and the Arkansas Development Finance Authority towards the build-out of the first urban mining refinery in the U.S. capable of retrieving valuable metals including gold, silver, copper and palladium from e-waste.
The parties have invested an initial capital amount of $35M towards the facility. Groundbreaking takes place today in Osceola, Arkansas at 12:30PM ET and will include speeches from Grant Tennille, Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, as well as former vice president, Al Gore, a partner at existing BlueOak investor, Kleiner Perkins.
"The United States is building a domestic supply chain to tackle the challenges presented by e-waste, and Arkansas has the talent pool and business environment to attract the cutting-edge companies like BlueOak that will comprise that supply chain," Governor Mike Beebe said. "This facility highlights our commitment to bring more manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., and back to Arkansas."
The groundbreaking at the Osceola, Arkansas facility is significant as it marks the first urban mining facility of its kind in the U.S., an example of the kind of development that can reinvigorate the U.S. manufacturing sector. BlueOak's refining business model is inspired by the quintessential case study of the mini-mill disruption of the steel industry, which ushered in a new era of steel production. The distributed nature of mini-mills allowed lowest cost production of steel from recycled steel scrap. BlueOak intends to capitalize on the high demand for "technology metals" like gold, silver, copper and palladium by creating distributed urban refineries in the U.S. and throughout the world that recover high-value metals from e-waste. Production at the Arkansas facility will begin by the end of 2015, initially processing 15 million lbs. of electronic scrap per year, with plans for rapid expansion, bringing 50 high-paying technical jobs to the area.
The Heartland Renaissance Fund, Los Angeles-based National New Markets Fund and U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation worked together to provide New Markets Tax Credit financing that was fundamental in helping BlueOak reach today's milestone. The groups were also key funding partners in the BlueOak transaction, which was arranged and structured by Global Principal Partners. "The New Markets Tax Credits were created with the vision of empowering and driving positive impact within rural communities in the US and the BlueOak project allows us to do just that in Osceola," said Sam Walls, President of Heartland Renaissance Fund, an affiliate of the Arkansas Capital Corporation Group.
"This opportunity with BlueOak aligns with our investment goals by coupling significant economic potential with a meaningful impact on society and the environment," said George Hopkins, Executive Director of the Arkansas Teachers' Retirement Fund.
Dumping e-waste in landfills and worse, exporting it to countries where e-waste is handpicked over open fires, represents not only an environmental disaster, but also the loss of millions of tons of valuable resources. Circuit boards, cell phones and other electronics are made with sizable amounts of gold, silver, copper and palladium – high-value metals that are currently lost to landfills. And, while Europe has established a thriving supply chain around this challenge, BlueOak is the U.S.'s only urban refinery dedicated to recovering precious metals from e-waste.
"Our milestone today is indicative of a larger, more meaningful movement in which Silicon Valley meets Industrial America, a phenomenon that is crucial to retaining U.S.'s global competitiveness and fostering our work force," said Privahini Bradoo, CEO of BlueOak. "We believe that by coupling innovative technology approaches with the U.S.'s wealth of manufacturing expertise and talent we can transform what has become a crippling global problem into a tremendous economic opportunity for our investors, partners, community and country."