Primary Materials in the Emerging Circular Economy

Implications for upstream resource producers and primary material exporters

This report from the Smart Prosperity Institute explains that, based on current trends, global material resource demand could double by 2060, outpacing supply and hindering global economic growth. This is increasingly being seen as a symptom of a broader problem of overuse of resources and a lack of attention to the environmental degradation that this causes.

Recognising these challenges, global governments and business leaders have endorsed a vision for a more circular economy (CE). This is one where the needs of a growing global society can be met within the boundaries of key ecological systems and processes.

However, early strategic thinking and policy development has been led by resource importing economies and has a downstream focus on closing the loop for materials now flowing out of the economy as ‘waste’. As a result, popular visions of the CE focus on reuse, repair, redistribution, refurbishment and remanufacture activities in downstream markets, leaving primary resource sectors on the periphery, as flows simply ‘to be minimized’.

This review considers the implications of emerging global CE frameworks for upstream natural resource producers. The general picture that has emerged from this research is that while CE policies may reduce demand for primary raw materials in some developed economies, evidence suggests ongoing (and likely increasing) demand for primary metals and minerals over the coming decades. This is driven by expectations of the material requirements for a low-carbon transition, alongside projections of material demands from emerging economies.

This report  intends to open a conversation about the role of primary natural resources in an emerging CE, highlighting the urgent need to develop a fuller picture of the real-world implications of a low-carbon, circular economy transition for primary resource sectors, primary resource producers, and the metals, minerals and mining sector.

Read the full report here.