Former Vice President Al Gore is expected to speak Tuesday afternoon in Osceola at the groundbreaking of a new electronics recycling plant there.
BlueOak Resources says its plant, funded by $35 million from investors including the Arkansas Teachers Retirement Fund, will be the first "urban mining refinery" in the country that can extract metals like gold, silver and copper from electronic waste.
Gore, a partner at BlueOak investor Kleiner Perkins, will speak at the 12:30 p.m. groundbreaking, as will Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Grant Tennille, organizers said.
The facility is expected to be operational by the end of next year, creating 50 new jobs and sorting through 15 million pounds of waste. BlueNote said in a statement that it has plans for "rapid expansion."
The company added that electronic waste such as circuit boards and cellphones are often thrown in landfills despite the valuable metals like gold, silver, copper and palladium that they contain. Other times, the items are shipped to other countries and picked through by hand, BlueNote said.
"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," BlueNote CEO Privahini Bradoo said in the statement.
The teacher retirement system in March approved an investment of up to $18 million in BlueOak Arkansas, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.