Assessment of Sustainability of Mineral Processing Industries

Authored by: Vladimir Strezov , Tim Evans

Sustainability in the Mineral and Energy Sectors

Print publication date:  September  2016
Online publication date:  September  2016

Print ISBN: 9781498733021
eBook ISBN: 9781315369853
Adobe ISBN:


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Mineral processing activities pose considerable challenges associated with the emission of pollutants to the environment. On the other hand, these industrial activities have a significant positive impact on the economy. The balance between the economic input versus the environmental footprint of industrial mineral processing determines its sustainability. This chapter provides a sustainability assessment of the production of iron and steel, aluminium, copper, lead, zinc, nickel and gold and summarises their contribution to the economy and environmental impacts. The environmental indicators assessed in this work were consumption parameters, priority volatile pollutants, particulate matter (PM), greenhouse gas emissions, emissions of priority metals, organic air toxics and the properties of the produced non-recyclable waste. These parameters were assessed based on their environmental risk scores and based on the economic contribution of the final product. The results indicate that lead production ranks as the least sustainable technology, due to significant emissions of priority volatiles, toxic metals and high depletion rates, relative to the economic input of this industry. The other low ranking industry was nickel production due to the highest PM2.5 emissions, high amount of produced toxic waste and low economic input. This work reveals the priority areas for improvement for each industry as it gives a relative comparison of the mineral processing industries based on environmental risk and economic contribution.

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