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Sustainability 2018, 10(2), 480; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10020480

What Is the Optimal and Sustainable Lifetime of a Mine?

1
Formerly Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), Stilleweg 2, D-30655 Hannover, Germany
2
Department of Knowledge Management and Communication, Faculty of Business and Globalization, Danube University, 3500 Krems, Austria
3
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), 8096 Zurich, Switzerland
4
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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Abstract

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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