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Can Mining Be Part of the Circular Economy or Is It Squaring the Circle?


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Author G Corder and A Golev


The concept of the circular economy has been gaining traction both in Europe and China.

In Europe the Ellen Macarthur Foundation see their mission as accelerating the transition from a linear take-make-dispose economic model to a circular model that is restorative and regenerative by design, and aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times. The Chinese Circular Economy initiative is effectively a sustainable consumption and production program utilising cleaner production, industrial ecology and life cycle management approaches to meet the national challenges of maintaining rapid economic growth while simultaneously enhancing environmental quality and maintaining social progress. A key characteristic of both of these circular economy initiatives is to design out, reuse or minimise the generation of waste.

The mining sector, by definition, is represented by linear rather than circular activities, by supplying resources to society. However, being one of the world’s largest waste generators, the sector can adopt similar logic to that of the circular economy to improve its sustainability performance. Waste is a critical issue along the whole metals value chain, from mining waste to eventual end-of-life products, such as scrap steel from construction and demolition waste or the growing problem of electronic waste.


Corder, G and Golev, A, 2016. Can
mining be part of the circular economy or is it squaring the circle?, in
Proceedings Life-of-Mine 2016 Conference , pp 121–123 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).