This publication explores the role of mining and metals in the circular
economy, an emerging concept that aims to draw the maximum value
from materials. In practice this involves ensuring that materials are
produced responsibly, kept in use for as long as possible through
intelligent product design and application that considers recycling and
disposal. It also raises fundamental questions about the structure of
product value chains and how they interface with the world around them.
The concept reflects ICMM’s view of how resources should be managed
and life cycle extended sustainably. Indeed, one of our 10 sustainable
development principles commits members to ‘facilitate and support
the knowledge-base and systems for responsible design, use, re-use,
recycling and disposal of products containing metals and minerals’.
This publication lays out the characteristics of a circular economy and
examines the context for the growing interest in this concept. We then
explore current and potential future contributions of the mining and
metals industry in such an economy.
What is clear is that a circular economy will involve a shift in how we
think about the use of minerals and metals from a production-disposal
mentality towards on-going use and re-use. Existing examples of
circularity in the mining and metals sector, such as recycling, re-use
or design for disassembly, form part of the circular economy concept
and lay the foundation for expansion to other products. The unique
properties of metals – such as conductivity, strength, durability and
recyclability – make the extension of their use vital in solving the
fundamental challenges of current and future generations.
ICMM is committed to sustainable development and will remain actively
involved in contributing to this conversation.