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Sustainability 2018, 10(2), 480;

What Is the Optimal and Sustainable Lifetime of a Mine?

Formerly Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), Stilleweg 2, D-30655 Hannover, Germany
Department of Knowledge Management and Communication, Faculty of Business and Globalization, Danube University, 3500 Krems, Austria
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), 8096 Zurich, Switzerland
Department of Physical Process Engineering, Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology (IGB), 70569 Stuttgart, Germany
Private address: Neue Sachlichkeit 32, D-30655 Hannover, Germany.
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 17 December 2017 / Revised: 1 February 2018 / Accepted: 2 February 2018 / Published: 11 February 2018
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The first stage of the circular economy, mining, is examined from the perspective of sustainability. The authors discuss how to maximize the use of phosphate rock, a primary commodity. To attract investment capital in a market economy system, a mine has to operate profitably, i.e., its lifetime must be optimized under economic conditions, for example, according to Taylor’s Rule. From a sustainability perspective, however, the lifetime should extend as long as possible and the grades mined be as low as possible. The authors examine methods for optimizing a mine’s lifetime under economic conditions according to practical experience and learning effects to optimize exploration and exploitation. With the condition of sustainability, a recently developed concept of cut-off grade for a layered phosphate deposit is examined and considerations for prolonging a mine’s lifetime are discussed. As there are big losses from the current and potential future value chains above and below the current cut-off grade, we argue that the losses and use efficiency of phosphorus are key parts of a circular economy. View Full-Text
Keywords: sustainable mining; lifetime of a mine; break-even cut-off; sustainable cut-off; resource efficiency; cut-off grade sustainable mining; lifetime of a mine; break-even cut-off; sustainable cut-off; resource efficiency; cut-off grade

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Wellmer, F.-W.; Scholz, R.W. What Is the Optimal and Sustainable Lifetime of a Mine? Sustainability 2018, 10, 480.

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