Mining and the Circular Economy

Circularity and Re-use


Karen, Chovan; Alan, Young

The Circular Economy (CE) involves a shift towards cradle-to-cradle consumer goods, reduced raw resource consumption, the re-use or re-manufacturing of waste materials, and the regeneration of impacted lands. In many ways, CE proponents are focused on a preference for secondary materials and have otherwise chosen to ignore the realistic need for substantial levels of primary extraction to meet minerals demands for renewable energy transitions. While increased recycling is critical, there is a need and market opportunity to apply CE principles to mining operations as well to meet a range of CE goals. On behalf of the Canadian Intergovernmental Working Group on the Mineral Industry and the Energy Mines Ministers Conference, Natural Resources Canada initiated a project “to advance the Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan," focusing on reducing mining’s footprint, enhancing closure and mine reclamation activities, adapting the mining cycle to climate change, and introducing Circular Economy concepts to transform mining waste into useful products and reduce environmental liabilities. This presentation will cover the outcomes of the studies around CE in mining, addressing key market drivers, the evolving policy context, core concepts, and practical operation-based applications. With a new lens, this presentation will review how our industry can re-evaluate its business processes, reduce the generation of wastes, find value in the materials we call waste, to optimize our systems, and regenerate impacted lands. In fact, the greatest advances in circularity involve collaboration across supply chain networks, in partnerships with manufacturers, refiners, industrial materials users, and with local planners and community leaders. In essence, the creation of a network that can come together to symbiotically reduce each other’s risks and operational costs, capture currently overlooked or lost economic value, each supporting the other in some way to optimize the circle’s efficiency.
Keywords: CIMBC22