Recent Australian research has shown that while mineral production continues to grow strongly for almost all commodities (graph A), key ‘mega-trends’ underpinning this include declining ore grades (graph B), exponentially increasing waste rock (graph C), and variable success in expanding economic mineral resources (graph D).
Collectively, the mega-trends in the Australian mining industry point to significant environmental challenges for the future of mining and mineral processing, such as potentially increased unit energy, pollutant, waste and water costs, and subsequently higher production costs. This will impact not only the demand for minerals and metals, but also drive the search for alternative technologies across exploration, mining, milling, smelting and refining. In the long term, it will increase the need for greater material efficiency and recycling. Read more in Geoscience Currents #29.