Journey Towards New Business Models in Mining

Can mining industry ever be truly sustainable? As a part of the Sustainability Master Class, the team Systemico is convinced that by entwining future production with utilization of reclaimed sources is the way forward. Through the incentivization across the supply/value chain and an emphasis on ethical and sustainability encouraging traceability of minerals and minimizing the potential for harm, we believe in a better tomorrow.

At this very moment about 50% of all of the copper is in fact already recycled when their primary use has come to an end.

As such, we have two very distinct visions for the future. Firstly, increased re-use of reclaimed materials. At this very moment about 50% of all of the copper is in fact already recycled when their primary use has come to an end. This particular is prospect based on the idea of involving the mining industry actors in the whole cycle of a metal, from the extraction to reclamation. Essentially, it can be thought that environmental harm by mining is justified by economic opportunities it brings in form of employment and sharing proceeds from mining activities in form of taxes or royalties. In primary extraction we are thinking about exploring models based on offering mining as a service where incentives are made to minimize the environmental impact of operation. From there on traceability of the material could be used to see the “mass balance” in the whole system where materials are ending up to and to increase the share of materials recycled.

Secondly, and looking even further into future, if most of the activities in mining are automated, there will be less positive externalities created by the mining industry for the national or local economies. In a case where a conventional mining site of thousands of workers may be made more secure and reliable through use of technology, the need for manpower is considerably diminished. How could this change the approach governments look at mining industry given that the metaphorical (and occasionally real tailing related) spillovers are lessened?

Automated gold concentrator at Kittilä mine. (Photo by Outotec)

The mining industry can become sustainable. In order to achieve the change we just need to think outside the box – actually far outside, and also, minimize the potential negative repercussions. We believe that by developing disruptive new business models a company can create significant competitive advantage in this situation by emphasizing on the sustainable and safer business practices related to mining.

We believe that any such disruptive business model needs to cover the whole cycle of materials, from primary mineral extraction to recycling. Will it be difficult to achieve? No doubt. Can we really do something if we dream big enough? Absolutely. Is this out of the box? So far out that you are a ball.
Written by,
Systemico: Kalle Aerikkala, Ville Ding, Viivi Haimi, Kaisa Manninen, Pekka Mäkinen & Minna Nevalainen
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