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Africa's Mining Sector at the World Circular Economy Forum 2024 :
Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and ACEA's Accelerator Session Paves the Way for Circularity


Apr 29, 2024

The global push towards a circular economy has found an important touchpoint within Africa’s mining sector, as discussed at the World Circular Economy Forum 2024 held in Brussels from 15th to 18th April. The accelerator session organized by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs for Finland and the African Circular Economy Alliance themed "Enhancing Circularity in Africa's Mining Sector" was the opportunity to dissect and enhance the circular potential of Africa's rich mineral industry.

The Shift to Circular Mining

With the continent housing 30% of the world's critical mineral resources, the session, held on April 18th, highlighted the increasing dependency on these minerals and the inherent risks to supply chains amidst volatile geopolitical landscapes. 

The discussion, informed by ACEA's 2021 Detailed Research Report, centered on circular economy (CE) strategies that have the potential to elevate operational efficiency and drastically cut costs for mining operators, thereby accelerating decarbonization efforts and aligning with regulatory goals.

One of the session’s highlights was the Africa Green Minerals strategy, under preparation by the African Development Bank. It aims to position the continent as a leader in just and inclusive energy transitions by leveraging circularity in mining solutions.

Drawing on key insights from the report and previous sessions, such as WCEF 2023, the conversation in Brussels revolved around the need for innovative finance models, policy interventions, and government incentives to facilitate a circular transition. There is a growing need for circular practices in the mining sector to be seen as a cross-sectional theme rather than in isolation, offering a unique vantage point for sustainable growth.

Innovative Practices for a Sustainable Future

The session spotlighted initiatives such as Anglo American's FutureSmart Mining program, which aims to transform mining operations to improve energy and water efficiencies by 30% by 2030. Such innovations signify the potential for redesigning mining processes and value chains to embody circular principles.

The concept of Materials as a Service (MaaS) was also introduced by ACEA Secretariat as a transformative business model that could underpin circularity in the mining sector. MaaS promotes the idea of using materials without the need for ownership, thus maximizing their lifespan and utility while minimizing waste.

Government's Role and ESG Principles

Strong governmental action was recognized as essential to fostering an enabling environment. From integrating Circular Economy in mining policies to enhancing transparency—such decisions are vital for the effective recycling and traceability of minerals. Moreover, the session underscored that Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations must run parallel to mineral stewardship policies to attract responsible investment.

Uniting for a Circular Transition

The accelerator session called upon ACEA members, strategic partners, and government bodies to collaborate closely to unlock circular opportunities, champion sustainable industrial development, and drive substantial social impact through capacity building and skill training.

This session marked a pivotal step forward, not only for the African continent but for the global economy, showcasing the transformative power of circular economy in one of the world's most resource-rich yet challenging sectors.

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