The promotion of circular economy is one of SOFOFA Hub’s strategic axes. In contrast to the linear production model –which extracts, produces, and discards–, circularity seeks out industrial by-products that can be recovered. This is an unavoidable goal for businesses in the 21st century.

It is no longer a question of producing more, but of producing better, especially in mining, where moving to a circular model is a major technological and cultural challenge, because Chile is the largest copper producer and exporter in the world and the mining industry is one of its economy’s main drivers.

In this context, SOFOFA Hubs, in partnership with CESCO (Center for Copper and Mining Studies), formed the Circular Economy Committee for Mining, comprised by four major mining companies and the Ministry of Mining. The objective is to create a space for the articulation of collaborative projects that facilitate the transition to circular economy through the search and testing of technological solutions, as well as the development of new business models and industrial symbiosis.

The Committee’s first step was to apply the initiative prioritization model —developed by SOFOFA Hub with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)— to define the lines of work. Anglo American, Codelco, Antofagasta Minerals and Teck —the participating companies— voiced their challenges in the area of circular economy, with a special focus on the valuing of waste or by-products, taking into account the current and future regulatory framework and its barriers. They identified four pre-competitive, high-impact challenges in terms of their volume, sense of urgency, and willingness to collaborate: copper slags, organic waste, out-of-use tires (NFUs), and tailings.

A subcommittee was created for each of these elements, led by a different company, with the aim of finding innovative solutions for their revaluation, analyzing them through the management model prioritization matrix. The Slag Subcommittee, headed by Anglo American, works on various lines of action to find new uses for this mining industry by-product —for example, in road construction or concrete production— through agreements among companies and with the state. By valuing waste and reusing it in its own production chain or incorporating it into another industry’s process using new technology, the mining industry can become an example of how companies can generate less environmental impact. At SOFOFA Hub we believe that we are about to witness a transformative change: circular economy is changing the companies’ DNA, and in the case of the mining industry, its effects will extend well beyond Chile. Because they are large-scale projects, their impact will be global.