Circle Economy Foundationnews
Published on: 
February 9, 2024

ICMM partners with leading research institutions to accelerate a global circular economy

London, 17 May, 2023 – Today, ICMM has announced new research partnerships with the Columbia Centre on Sustainable Investment (CCSI), the Enel Foundation and Circle Economy to investigate the role of the mining and metals sector in accelerating a global circular economy that contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and aims of the Paris Agreement.

ICMM’s partnership with Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI) and the Enel Foundation will explore the necessary conditions that would enable mineral and metals to play a central role in a global circular economy. It will focus on the value chains of wind turbines and solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and zero in on four key materials: aluminium, copper, silicon and steel. The research will also explore how mining companies could adopt new circular concepts and operations, and interact with the value chain. This work will be based on information and data gained from collaboration with the industry (through ICMM members), policy-makers, investors, financiers, research institutions and downstream purchasers of metals.

ICMM’s partnership with Circle Economy aims to better understand the flow of the key transition minerals and metals being covered in the preliminary research with CCSI and the Enel Foundation and their end use in use in solar panels and wind turbines in key markets. The outcome is expected to be a defined set of indicators that can support mining companies and others in the value chain to develop partnerships and business opportunities that maximise circularity, while creating socio-environmental and economic value. 

Christian Spano, Director of Innovation, ICMM, said: “Minerals and metals are at the heart of a just energy transition. They will power our energy and transport systems of the future, and are critical in enabling a global circular economy. As mining operations become increasingly circular – by working to eliminate waste, designing land use to be regenerative so that it can continue to add value to nature and society long after the mine has closed, and developing initiatives to recover and repurpose metals from downstream products – we have a great opportunity to drive prosperity for resource-rich countries and supply the durable materials that that the world  needs. But, to become truly circular, collaboration and innovation across value chains will be critical. We need to understand what conditions are necessary for these durable materials to be recovered at any time, when society needs them. ICMM is thrilled to be working with CCSI, the Enel Foundation and Circle Economy to help solve challenges impeding progress and accelerate a global circular economy at scale.”

Perrine Toledano, Director of Research and Policy, CCSI, said: “The mineral intensity of the zero-carbon energy transition will inevitably require an expansion in mining activities, but it will also require mining companies to systemically adopt circularity approaches, based on a comprehensive circular economy strategy. CCSI is excited to collaborate with ICMM and the Enel Foundation in continuing its research on economic, technological, legal, and policy aspects to drive primary extractive companies to respond to climate and broader sustainability imperatives by repositioning themselves as materials solutions providers.

Silvia Burgos, Senior Researcher, Enel Foundation, said: “The transition to a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions future and the digitalisation of a growing global population will increase the demand for minerals and metals. By partnering at mine sites and along materials value chains, there is an opportunity for companies to accelerate and scale up solutions to increase the value that they can deliver in terms of social and environmental progress combined with economic growth. This lens enables companies and countries to rethink how value is created, in line with sustainable development.” 

Jacco Verstraeten-Jochemsen, Lead Business Solutions, Circle Economy said: “The transition to a circular economy is essential in realising a safe and just environment for all. For instance, doubling the circularity of the global economy will bring the 1,5 ˚C pathways of the Paris Agreement within reach. The energy transition and shift to renewable energy systems should be a core focus - both to mitigate climate change and to minimise the need for and wasting of valuable minerals. Mining companies have a key role to play in implementing circular economy principles in the renewable energy value chain. They can minimise waste production, increase efficiency and implement regenerative principles at mining sites. Even more so, their technology, their expertise and their experience in waste management can prove vital for other players in the value chain that want to become more circular. Such contributions start with a clear definition of the end goal, consensus on the metrics and opportunities, and commitment to share best practices.

Findings from this research are expected to be published in early 2024. 

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