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The mining industry in a sustainable future

Svemin, together with SEI, initiated a project to analyse the role of the mining and minerals industry in the shift towards a sustainable future. Together with relevant stakeholders we were discussing and drilling into what this transformation meant for the mining and minerals industry and the challenges ahead.

Inactive project


Project contact

Olle Olsson


Truck parking at the Aitik open pit mine

Truck parking at the Aitik open pit mine, March 2013. Photo: Victor Svensson / Flickr.


In the autumn of 2015, the world’s heads of state adopted the UN Agenda 2030 with the 17 sustainable development goals. The overall objective of the Agenda is to eradicate poverty and hunger, to realize human rights for everyone, achieve equality and empowerment, as well as ensure lasting protection for the planet and its natural resources. The sustainable development goals balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, the social and environmental. Agenda 2030 is a positive step forward in global cooperation and can contribute to an increased insight that it is necessary to balance different societal goals – economic sustainability is a prerequisite for social as well as environmental sustainability, and vice versa.

In the future, modern and sustainable society with increased prosperity will continue to demand, produce and purchase metals and minerals. They will be needed for example in infrastructure, communication equipment and sustainable energy systems (solar cells, wind turbines, batteries etc.). However, extraction of metals and mining of industrial minerals must be done sustainably. This means giving consideration to people, the environment and the economy. Human aspects include health, social and cultural elements. Environment considerations must be given to emissions, waste management, post-extraction remediation, nature conservation, energy use and climate. Economic aspects include social development, prosperity, competitiveness, resource management and the circular economy. The mining and mineral industries affect all three dimensions of sustainability, both positively and negatively, but without the industry’s contribution, not least to supply materials for a necessary technological transformation of global energy systems, for example, climate change becomes difficult to solve. At the same time, the industry wrestles with others sustainability challenges, as current footprints and activities are in many respects far from being sustainable. The Swedish mining and mineral industry and the value chains it supplies lie at the forefront of technological and innovative development in the field of industry technology, but a key question remains: how can the industry contribute to the transformation into a sustainable society, one that is bound to affect businesses and business models going forward?

Illustration of a mine

Illustration of a mine

Aim of the project

The aim of the project, “The mining industry in a sustainable future”,  was to deliver a clearer picture of the future mining and mineral industry’s role in the transition to a sustainable society and develop a proposal for a strategic sustainability action plan. The strategic action plan should make it easier for the industry to be a part of the social transformation, contribute to economic development by helping society achieve the goals of the UN agenda for sustainable development, and to be an active driver for change, rather than being forced to respond to external demands.

Expected results

The action plan proposal should help the industry navigate the future in relation to various possible future scenarios, which are carved out in stakeholder workshops organized in the project. The industry, in its continuing operations, are expected to successfully participate in the social transformation and in this way contribute Agenda 2030.  All of the 17 Global Goals will directly or indirectly be affected by how the industry succeeds in its ambition to be a sustainable supplier of materials. The most direct challenges and possible solutions are related to water, ecosystems, health and safety and human rights. Even other Global Goals relating to energy, climate, industry, infrastructure, employment creation, sustainable production and consumption will be positively or negatively affected by how society and the industries concerned choose to adapt their material supply.

Project methods and workshops

The project methodology was built upon a co-creation process facilitated by SEI and with participants from the Swedish mining sector and stakeholders from academia, civil society and the political sphere. This process uses explorative scenarios and is aimed at developing a proposal for strategic action plan for Svemin to help the Swedish mining sector find ways to both contribute to a sustainable future more broadly and also ensure that its own operations are sustainable. In a second component of the project, SEI experts will analyze how the action plan fits into more general sustainability discussions and propose concrete near-term measures that should be taken to implement the ambitions of the strategy.

Timings and funding

The project “The mining industry in a sustainable future” was financed by Vinnova, Formas and the Swedish Energy Agency through the program SIP STRIM. The final report will be finished in May 2019.

Past event

Project team

Kristian Skånberg
Kristian Skånberg

SEI Affiliated Researcher

Rasmus Kløcker Larsen
Rasmus Kløcker Larsen

Team Leader: Rights and Equity

SEI Headquarters

Publications and perspectives

Breakfast seminar 28 May 2019: release of new report

During a breakfast seminar in Stockholm on 28 May 2019, organised by SEI and Svemin, the report “The Swedish Mining Sector in Sustainable Futures” was released and presented.

Below follow filmed interviews with some of the panel speakers.

Måns Nilsson (SEI’s Executive Director) on what a research organisation such as SEI can offer the mining industry. Video: SEI / YouTube.

Per Ahl (CEO of Svemin) talks about the benefits of working together with a research organisation (in Swedish). Video: SEI / YouTube.

Annika Nilsson (researcher at KTH) explains the sustainability considerations during permitting processes in the mining sector. Video: SEI / YouTube.

Mikael Staffas (CEO of Boliden) talks about the key takeaways from the seminar. Video: SEI / YouTube.

Design and development by Soapbox.