In a year of several firsts for Olympic medals the Royal Canadian Mint brought together traditions of Native People, modern technology and e-waste recycling to create a set of unique medals for the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralymics.
In honor of of the Four Host First Nations people on whose territory the Games are being held, the athlete medals were struck with compelling symbols of West Coast native art. The Vancouver 2010 medals are based on two large master artworks of an orca whale (Olympic) and raven (Paralympic) by Corrine Hunt, a Canadian designer/artist of Komoyue and Tlingit heritage based in Vancouver, BC.
The design on each medal represents a section hand cropped from the original artwork. In total 615 unique medals for the Olympics and 399 for the Paralymics were created. All the metal for the medals was supplied by Teck Resources. Teck Resources supplied 2.05 kilograms of gold, 1,950 kilograms of silver and 903 kg of copper for the medals. A small percentage of the total gold, silver and copper used was recovered from 6.8 metric tons of circuit boards, headed for landfill. In total 1.52 percent of the gold, 0.122 percent of the silver, and 1.11 percent of the copper supplied by Teck Resources came from end-of-life circuit boards. The boards were shredded, the recoverable material separated and melted to recover the valuable material.
The undulating surface of the medals intended to evoke thoughts of the sea, snow and natural environment of British Columbia was also a first. Production of the surface required the use of 12 separate computer cut and milled dies. The Royal Canadian Mint has a website dedicated to telling the story of the medals creation, with more about the manufacturing processes and the artisans involved in creating the medals.
Problems stemming from e-waste are explored further in this paper; Could Your Recycling Program Lead to Charges of Greenwashing or Worse — Hidden Markets in Waste Recycling