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Achieving Circularity in the Mining Industry


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Published: March 10, 2023

“If it can’t be grown, it must be mined.”

Many of us are aware that the Earth’s resources are not infinite. However, the reality we all need to understand is that if a resource isn’t grown, it is likely mined.

In March, the aim10x team hosted the first session in a roundtable series on sustainability. During the Achieving Circularity in the Mining Industry roundtable, guest speaker John Holmes, SVP Sustainability Solutions at DRA Nexus, made it clear that mining is sitting right at the intersection of the problem, as well as the potential solution, to some of the world’s most significant issues. The mining industry has a major impact on the Earth and climate. However, we need to realize that any raw materials or resources that aren’t grown, often come out of the ground. Circularity can make a necessary process that so many industries depend on much more sustainable.

Here are four key takeaways from the roundtable discussion:

Setting holistic goals that factor in the complexities

In mining, sustainability issues lie at the nexus between water, energy and food security. There’s a big opportunity for food production around mining sites in mine closures and companies are now setting goals to achieve carbon neutrality by a certain time and they set similar goals for water. Within DRA Nexus, the team has found that solving one of these problems on their own will create another problem elsewhere. With this in mind, the team started tackling problems and setting goals more holistically. It’s a complex system that needs to be observed at the onset when starting working on sustainability in mining.

Find opportunities within the value chain

In today’s interconnected world there is significant demand for sustainably sourced products as more consumers are aware of how products are made. Shifting consumer demand really drives the change in what mining companies need to deliver, but also how they deliver. Throughout the value chain, there are opportunities to reduce, replace and recover. “I think the other thing that’s important is also looking at ways to reduce direct impacts that you have both on the natural environment and also in the communities around you,” John says.

Using cross-collaboration to find solutions

In order to achieve a good transition to sustainable practices, a digital operating model is quite important, not only to be able to make good decisions but also to give transparency to people in terms of how products are made. In today’s world, data is a key component in finding solutions to customers’ pain points. Companies can get direct insights into the sustainability footprint of their products and how materials were sourced. Data is shared with clients to help achieve their sustainability goals. This is where cross-sector collaboration comes into play, which is another important factor in achieving circularity and sustainability goals. To provide a holistic view of how to find solutions for environmental issues, organizations and companies should stop working in silos. To summarize, collaboration and digital models are the future to have a closed-loop system.

Digital technology will play a significant role in achieving circularity

In summary, we’re living in an age where we don’t have a lot of time to solve the climate crisis and people are waking up to this. Digital technology advancements will play an influential role in how our society ultimately solves the actual problems around sustainability. Many companies are trying to solve parts of their puzzle in isolation, but it’s finding the right balance and partners that will really begin to drive change.

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