Exploring the role of mining and metals in the circular economy – an emerging concept that aims to draw the maximum value from materials.
Moving to a circular economy is a global imperative for a truly sustainable economy, and the mining and metals sector has a critical role to play.
Our growing population, development in many countries and the drive for the clean energy technologies that are required to achieve our climate goals and the net zero transition is increasing demand for critical minerals. Our work is defining the agenda for mining and metals in the circular economy. We are exploring the contributions our sector can make through providing responsibly produced metals into markets which are optimised for circularity.
Issue at a glance
- To solve big global challenges like climate change, while also delivering against the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we need to move away from the take-make-waste economy of the past and embrace new circular ways of thinking that increase material productivity, eliminate waste and regenerate nature.
- The circular economy rejects the approach of traditional manufacturing in favour of a more efficient, environmentally sound and sustainable way of thinking that focuses on the careful management of resources, with products designed to last.
- For our industry, the circular economy starts with ensuring that the primary metals which we extract are mined responsibly, waste is eliminated from the mining process, and after a mine closes the land is regenerated and communities have other economic opportunities.
- We then need to ensure that metals are managed correctly once they enter markets, recognising that they are an enormous store of value because of their inherent durability, strength and almost infinite potential for reuse.
Collaborate to ensure primary metals are produced responsibly
Primary extraction remains key to meeting the growing demand for metals, and ensuring that these metals are produced in the right way is key to ICMM’s work. We work with our members and external stakeholders to promote responsible mining across the world.
Mapping value and mitigating waste streams
Metals are a durable material which can last forever, and yet too often they end up as waste, including the rapidly growing stream of e-waste. We are working with stakeholders across the metals value stream to rethink how metals are used in products, and to ensure that the inherent value of metals as a durable product is recognised and capitalised on.
Creating conditions for a circular business model
Whilst there are examples from across the industry of innovative circular solutions, these remain relatively niche as we are still operating in a predominantly linear economy. We are working with stakeholders including downstream customers and policy makers to understand the conditions which would be needed to allow growth of circular economy solutions at scale.