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Global Resources

Mining and Metals in a Sustainable World 2050: Report Launch

Fundamental changes in the way we use resources are expected over the next decades, driven by increased growth and population in a world of limited resources; Recycling and reuse of materials will increase but at given growth patterns, primary (extracted) materials will remain important; Mining and metals will continue to be central part of the economy but business models need to be adjusted for more circularity

Dalian, People’s Republic of China – a new report, Mining and Metals in a Sustainable World 2050, has been launched as part of the World Economic Forum’s Industry Agenda publication.

Few industrial sectors are more fundamental to global social and economic development than mining and metals. Important in themselves, representing more than $2 trillion in revenue, they also connect to the value chains of most other economic and industrial activities. They will face major challenges in the years to come. The future of our planet and of its finite, non-replaceable resources will be top of all serious agendas between now and 2050. A way has to be found for the Earth to live within its environmental means while coping with continued increases in both per capita consumption and population. As a result, regulation is increasing and customer sentiments are changing. While it remains essential for companies to focus on short-term issues in today’s environment of low commodity prices, long-term success in a sustainable world requires developing a long-term perspective today.

As Gary Goldberg, CEO of Newmont Mining Corporation, points out: “Our world has been shaken up and we are faced with a new environment where a new generation is asking for a wiser and more sustainable use of resources. The report helps the industry understand what questions the industry needs to ask and what the impact could be.”

Prepared in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group, the report provides a holistic view – for industry players and those in sectors affected by mining and metals – of the changes to come and the new expectations they will face. It identifies key questions, such as: How can we embrace the transformations to come? Which business models and strategic priorities will enable success? What actions can mining and metals companies take now to prepare themselves to be the industry leaders in 30 years’ time?

Mining and Metals in a Sustainable World 2050 provides a framework that describes six key themes of transition that companies need to think about, from the resource base to end-consumer demand. It provides guidelines for plotting a path to 2050 from today, identifying the gaps to bridge and potential disruptions to be handled.

A deep dive was conducted around the theme of circularity and recycling of resources. Three scenarios of the future, each outlining a different road towards 2050, were applied to identify different actions. Key findings include:

A strong move towards recycling and circularity is likely, but will not happen without action – in terms of infrastructure, regulation and competitive cost economics – to help it happen
Mining will not disappear, but volumes are unlikely to grow in line with GDP growth
Metals will not disappear. Companies will increasingly act as a link between commodity producers and user industries, and some as providers of recycled materials
Technology will matter more than ever. Mining companies should focus on improving waste treatment, while metal companies work on enhancing low-grade processing capabilities
Understanding value chains and consumer preferences will be increasingly important.

The report provides an overview of the courses of action the industry and stakeholders will have to pursue. “As the report shows, we will see an increase in collaboration, both within the mining and metals industry and across the value chains with other industries and stakeholders,” says Gillian Davidson, Head of Mining and Metals Industries at the World Economic Forum. She adds: “Business models will have to be adjusted accordingly with some players redefining themselves as material providers, rather than pure mining or metals players. The companies who think about this now, and act on their thinking, are those with the best chance of coming through these changes as leaders.”

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