Move Over Gold, This New Metal May Be More "Precious"
Humanium Metal is a metal derived from melting down seized illegal firearms and is part of an initiative by IM Swedish Development Partner (IM), a development organization focused on fighting poverty, violence and social exclusion.
“We take scrap metal and convert it into the most valuable metal on Earth,” Peter Brune, a senior policy advisory for the initiative, told Kitco News in a phone interview. “You cannot measure the life of a human being in gold but with this metal, we can save lives.”
The initiative was born in 2016 while Brune was working in the Central American Small Arms Control (CASAC) program – an initiative involving the destruction of illegal firearms in Latin America. The scrap metal coming from these melted weapons was being dumped into the Pacific Ocean and that is when Brune realized something needed to be done.
Working with IM, Brune launched the demo product, the Humanium Metal ingot, initially selling 100 bars at a price tag of roughly €5,000, he said.
“The ingot corresponds, in its weight, to one AK-47,” he explained. “That is its symbolic value.”
How does the Humanium Metal process work?
Brune and his team are partnered with the government of El Salvador, which supplies them with the firearms to produce the metal. In return, IM partners with brands that use the metal in products, which includes everything from watches, jewelry to even tech gadgets like earbuds. The proceeds are then invested back into El Salvador.
“We are trying to gain access to more countries to give us Humanium Metal as a donation because we will never buy firearms for this purpose,” Brune said. “We will only get seized firearms that authorities have destroyed, have them make a donation to us and we commit ourselves to reinvest the premium generated back into their countries.”
In El Salvador, the initiative has taken over 4,500 firearms off the hands of the government over the last three years, Brune explained.
Currently, the initiative has six brand partners, including Stockholm-based innovation lab Yevo, that have committed to produce items with the new metal.
“The first company was a Stockholm-based watchmaker called TRIWA – an acronym for Transforming Industry of Watches – and when Sweden held the presidency of the UN Security Council, all the members got watches that were labeled ‘Time for Peace,’” Brune said.
What is next for Humanium Metal?
According to Brune, there are three main avenues in which this initiative will push forward.
Brune and his team have to deal with the challenge of having a constant supply of Humanium Metal by partnering with more governments that are seizing illegal firearms.
“We are negotiating with other countries like Honduras and Brazil at the moment,” he said.
Second, they are exploring new applications for the metal.
“We don’t sell the ingots any longer. That was for demo purposes,” Brune said. Instead, the steel from firearms is now being turned into powder form, and brands are using it to create products via 3D printing, Brune explained.
However, Brune’s main goal now is to partner with global-reaching brands. While he disclosed he is in negotiations, he said he cannot reveal the names yet.
“This is not just a campaign. It is a long-term initiative,” he said. “Humanium is a commodity for peace.”