SUMMARY OF RESULTS: Forum on „Circular Economy in the Mining Sector. Discussing Opportunities Available for Mining Companies“.

On Wednesday, 17th of June 2020, took place the forum on „Circular Economy in the Mining Sector: Opportunities Available for Mining Companies”. The event was held entirely in English, in format of a webinar. Overall, more than 300 people from different countries around the world have joined this activity. The forum is part of the project Eco Mining Concepts, a German-Chilean network for sustainable mining. The network counts with financial support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi).

Strategic Objectives

The topic of Circular Economy already has been prioritized by the advisory board of the network as one of the guiding topics for the project’s year 2020. The advisory board consists of various government bodies and research institutes in Germany and Chile. Concrete objectives of the seminar were defined as follows:

  • Stimulating an exchange of views and experiences between German and Chilean actors with an interest in sustainable mining and environmental services.
  • Outlining possibilities, innovation approaches and best practice examples for the Chilean mining industry.
  • Driving forward the implementation of circular economy in the Chilean mining sector, to develop sustainable value chains and to generate stimuli for innovation.

Content Summary

After a short welcome by German and Chilean governmental authorities, the keynote speech by Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart initiated the seminar, followed by three further lectures with a subsequent discussion panel.

Keynote speaker Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart is internationally seen as a pioneer in the field of circular economy. As the co-founder of the design concept Cradle to Cradle, he has received several international awards. In his lecture, he suggested to redefine copper in the mining sector as a service product and to thereby generate a higher conformity with principles of circular economy. This concept is based on the idea that countries that are global players in fields of natural resources, such as Chile, do not just sell and export their raw materials, but rather offer the use of this resource as a service. This means that they later on recover the primary raw material through recycling in order not to lose ownership of it and to have steady revenues which can then be used for innovations – also in sustainability issues. Furthermore, with regard to sustainability in the mining sector, Prof. Braungart argues that the focus should not be set on how to minimize environmental damage, but rather on the approach of leaving a „beneficial footprint“. In his eyes, this is the only way to achieve true eco-effectiveness.

Presentation in PDF for participants of the event upon request

Cleve Lightfoot is Head of Innovation at the Australian mining company BHP, representing the perspective of raw material extracting & processing companies. In his presentation, he presented the context to the recently initiated BHP Tailings Challenge as an example of a proactive approach taken by the mining industry. The aim of the challenge is to identify new solutions for the reduction and recycling of industrial waste. The expected final result is a commercially viable solution that allows BHP’s mining operations to repurpose a relevant volume of tailings. The process is set up to develop that solution from a conceptual idea to an actual product or service.

Carlos Rebolledo presented in behalf of EcoMetales, a subsidiary of the state mining company Codelco. He outlined different possibilities & best practices for the recovery of value elements and resources from various residues of the mining process.

Tobias Pinkse and Ana Oellermann were representing the sight of German mining suppliers, speaking behalf of K-UTEC, a member of the Eco Mining Concepts network, and behalf of Schachtbau Nordhausen. Both experts presented best-practice examples in the potash industry in order to activate former mines in underground mining in terms of the circular economy by means of technological possibilities / backfilling methods.

The individual presentations were followed by a discussion panel moderated by Andrés Mitnik, Business Director of the Chilean innovation network Expande. Participants of the panel:

  • Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart, EPEA, Environmental Protection and Encouragement Agency in Hamburg
  • Jorge Cantallopts, Chilean Copper Commission Cochilco
  • Guillermo Gonzalez Caballero, Chilean Ministry of Environment, Office for Circular Economy
  • Carlos Rebolledo, EcoMetales
  • Cleve Lightfoot, BHP

All panelists agreed: Chile is on the right track towards more circular economy in the mining sector. The course has been set and a supporting political framework is developed. The Chilean mining sector only has a promising future if it adapts entirely towards principles of circular economy. To achieve this, private and state companies must and will be innovative, think out of the box and integrate new approaches and ideas.

Evaluation of Results

During the event, different perspectives and approaches from science, politics, mining suppliers and mining companies themselves were presented. This stimulated a further exchange of interests, which was reflected, for example, in the many questions posed to the speakers by the audience.

The overall positive response illustrates the current strong interest in the topic as well as the importance of the innovation component integrated in the topic. Intensified German-Chilean cooperation in this area can help to further unleash innovation and new approaches to solutions and network structures in the future. German supplier companies are a strong, innovative partner with sustainable technologies on the road to more circular economy in Chilean mining.

The content of the speakers’ presentations is their sole responsibility and does not necessarily reflect the position of the German-Chilean Chamber of Commerce & Industry or the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy.

In cooperation with:

Circular Economy in the Mining Sector: Discussing Opportunities Available for Mining Companies.

The German-Chilean Chamber of Commerce and Industry kindly invites you to participate in the forum Circular Economy in the Mining Sector: Discussing Opportunities Available for Mining Companies. It will take place in form of a webinar and it is part of the project Eco Mining Concepts, which counts with the support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi).

Language of the event: English



09:00 hs –
09:10 hs
Welcome and Introduction
Annika Glatz, Project Leader Mining, Raw Materials & Sustainability
Ricardo Irarrázabal, Undersecretary of the Chilean Ministry of Mining 
Dr. Markus Utsch, International Policy Unit for Raw Materials, German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi)
09:10 hs
09:40 hs
KEY NOTE: Cradle to Cradle as an Innovation Platform in Mining Industries – Copper as a Service Product
Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart
Leuphana University Lüneburg, Braungart EPEA – Environmental Protection and Encouragement Agency in Hamburg
09:40 hs
10:05 hs
BHP Tailings Challenge
Speaker: Cleve Lightfoot
Head of Innovation at BHP
10:05 hs
10:10 hs
10:10 hs
10:35 hs
Circular Economy in Copper Smelting and Refining
Speaker: Carlos Rebolledo,
Business Development Manager at EcoMetales
10:35 hs
11:00 hs
Maximizing Re-use and Resource Efficiency of Mining Assets: Best Practice Examples from the Potash Industry to Inspire
Ana Carolina Oellermann, Project Engineer at Schachtbau Nordhausen;
Tobias Pinkse, Project Manager & Business Developer at K-UTEC AG Salt Technologies
11:00 hs
11:30 hs
Panel Discussion: Defining the Status Quo of Circular Economy in the Chilean Mining Sector: Where are we now and where are we going to?  
Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart, EPEA
Jorge Cantallopts, Cochilco
Guillermo Gonzalez Caballero, Head of the Circular Economy Office at the Ministry of Environment  
Carlos Rebolledo, Ecometales
Cleve Lightfoot, BHP

Moderator: Andrés Mitnik,  Fundación Chile
11:30 hsFinal Remarks  


Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart
Leuphana University Lüneburg, Braungart EPEA – Environmental Protection and Encouragement Agency in Hamburg

Michael Braungart is professor at the Leuphana University Lüneburg and founder of EPEA, Environmental Protection and Encouragement Agency in Hamburg (Germany), ‘The cradle of Cradle to Cradle’. He is also co-founder of McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) in Charlottesville, Virginia and founder of the Hamburger Environmental Institute (HUI). For decades, Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart has pioneered the Cradle to Cradle design concept. He has worked with a number of organizations and companies across a range of industries, and has developed tools for designing eco-effective products, business systems and intelligent materials pooling. In 2019 Michael Braungart was awarded the Goldene Blume von Rheydt (Golden Flower of Rheydt), the oldest environmental protection award in Germany, for his work.

Cleve Lightfoot
Head of Innovation at BHP

Cleve Lightfoot is an experienced Technology Lead with a demonstrated history of working in the mining & metals industry. Additionally, he is a strong information technology professional skilled in Copper, Leaching, Reliability Engineering, Minerals, and Continuous Improvement. Currently, he holds the position of Head of Innovation at BHP, is Director of the Foundation Chile (representing BHP), as well as of Inversiones Innovadoras S.A.. Moreover, he is Advisory Board Member at „Talento Digital para Chile“.

Andrés Mitnik
Director of Business Development for Open Innovation in Mining at Fundación Chile

Andrés Mitnik is a Civil Industrial Environmental Engineer and holds Masters degrees from Harvard University and NYU. During his career he has participated in projects around the world with institutions such as the World Bank, IFC, IDB, think tanks and private companies. Andrés has spent 8 years working on innovation with the mining industry from different angles, including project delivery, financing and open innovation. Today, from his role as Business Director of Expande, he leads the management of the BHP Tailings Challenge.

Jorge Cantallopts A.
Research and Public Policy Director, Chilean Copper Commission (Cochilco)

Jorge Cantallopts has been the Director of Research and Public Policies of the Chilean Copper Commission (Cochilco) since 2014. He has also served as Coordinator of Public Policies between 2007 and 2011. He previously served as executive director of MBChile consultant and advisor of the Mining Council. He has worked in areas of study and statistics in the Internal Revenue Service and the Central Bank of Chile among others institutions. He is the author of several articles on economics and mining policies, and has been professor of assessment projects, economic theory and market analysis of minerals in different universities in Chile. He has Masters in Financial Economics and Economist from the University of Santiago de Chile. He has 20 years of experience as an economist, of which over 20 have been dedicated to the analysis of the mining sector.

Carlos E. Rebolledo Ibacache
Business Development Manager, EcoMetales Limited

Carlos E. Rebolledo Ibacache, is a Biochemical Engineer from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaiso, Chemical Engineer from Politecnico di Torino and Master in Environmental Management,  from Universidad del Desarrollo. He worked on environmental and process design at AMEC Engineering Company (Wood) and then on Arauco, where develop new techniques for the treatment of pulp mill and panel board effluents, and participate in the design and construction of new facilities between 2006 and 2010. Actually is the Business and Development Manager in EcoMetales, EcoMetales is a CODELCO subsidiary and treat hazardous wastes from copper smelters and refineries, recover the valuable metal and disposing the arsenic as scorodite. He has been a member of CESCO since last year, where he is committed to promoting cleaner and greener mining. Since 2018, has been involve in the local StartUps development and the last year participate in the Venture Capital Executive Program organized by Universidad Adolfo Ibañez, SOFOFA and Venture Capital Chilean Association (ACVC).

Ana Carolina Oellermann
Project Engineer, M. Sc., Schachtbau Nordhausen

Ana Carolina Oellermann has received a bachelor degree in Mining Engineering in 2009 from the Federal University of Ouro Preto in Brazil. During her studies she has gained experience in the mineral processing industry by working in two different processing plants at iron mines in Brazil. After that, she has completed her master degree in Materials Engineering from the University of Augsburg in Germany. Ana is currently employed by Schachtbau Nordhausen, since september 2019,  as a Project Engineer with focus on international mining projects and business development.

Tobias Pinkse
Project Manager & Business Developer, M. Sc., K-UTEC AG Salt Technologies

Tobias Pinkse has received a graduate degree in Mining Engineering in 2002 from the Technical University of Delft in The Netherlands. He has gained a broad experience in project management, (solution) mining, backfilling technology, extractive and industrial waste management, underground (cavern) storage, geotechnics, environmental impact assessment, permitting processes and stakeholder engagement through several roles in the civil engineering, oil & gas and salt mining industries. Tobias has joined K-UTEC in 2016 and is currently project manager and business developer within the waste management and backfilling technology department.

Guillermo Gonzalez Caballero
Head of the Circular Economy Office at the Chilean Ministry of Environment

Guillermo González is head of the Circular Economy Office of the Chilean Ministry of the Environment. Guillermo is an Environmental Civil Engineer from the Catholic University of Chile, and holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy and a Master’s degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of California-Berkeley. He has more than 10 years of experience doing environmental consulting for the public and private sector, and working in different civil society organizations, among others, as executive director of the research center Espacio Público. He has taught courses in environmental management, environmental impact assessment and air quality at the Universidad Católica, Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez and Universidad del Desarrollo.