Achieving the Circular Economy in Mining

In part one of our Circularity series, we looked at the barriers facing the mining industry in achieving circularity in their business. In this second part, we will explore our progress, and how true circularity can be achieved.

The mining industry is well positioned to adapt to a circular model in what is mined, and how materials are mined.

Here at CMIC our focus is on the second component, how materials are mined. Our approach to circularity is unique because we see it as a result rather than an aspiration. We’re all about driving the industry to zero waste, which is foundational to circularity.

The development of roadmaps by the industry and facilitated by CMIC has led to more open collaborative efforts by mining companies and the supply chain in general. They help define the challenges that need to be addressed, re-frame what is possible and create new design principles based on the new paradigm.

For example, a major challenge in the industry has been managing or reducing the impact of tailings. CMIC’s ideation process rethinks the question to ‘how do we engineer tailings production out of the flowsheet?’. This then leads to the creation of roadmaps, alignment of various players and ultimately collaborative projects that move towards this ultimate goal.

How roadmaps lead to circularity

Mining companies today are depending on technological innovation to help them reduce waste, limit environmental impact and decarbonize their operations; they are striving for net zero within the confines of the need to operate profitably.

CMIC partners see the benefits of sharing expertise and resources to co-develop technologies to address their common issues under a system of open IP. Innovative companies are more than willing to jump on board as these collaborative projects are strategically relevant to them.

That collaboration is essential not just within the mining industry, but across industries. We believe that 70-90 per cent of the technology required exists but has not been adopted by the mining industry due to the need for re-tooling and capital constraints.

CMIC’s BluVein project is a joint venture between Sweden-based EVIAS and Australia-based Olitek. A consortium of seven mining companies is working together to adapt technology developed for electrified public highways in Sweden for use in the heaviest diesel-powered machinery operating in the mining sector.

Is circularity achievable?

The concept of zero waste is ambitious but as the level of collaboration increases progress toward a zero waste industry continues to strengthen.

According to the International Council on Mining & Metals, metals are infinitely recyclable, increasing the longevity of end-use products. There is also a financial incentive to reuse finite metal resources given the value and complexity required to produce them. As we move toward zero waste in the production of those metals, that is when we can achieve true circularity.

Learn more about how we are rethinking mining.

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Mike Stuart

Head of Sales , Intel