Responsible sourcing of critical metals
Mineralogical Society of America
© 2017 by the Mineralogical Society of America. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution CC-BY 3.0 License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Most critical raw materials, such as the rare earth elements (REE), are starting products in long manufacturing supply chains. It is difficult for consumers, buying cars or smartphones for example, to engage with the original mines and demand environmental and social best practice. Geoscientists can become involved in responsible sourcing because geology is related to environmental impact factors such as energy requirements, resource efficiency, radioactivity and the amount of rock mined. The energy and material inputs and emissions and waste from mining and processing can be quantified using life cycle assessment (LCA). Preliminary LCA studies for REE show little over all difference between ‘hard rocks’ such as carbonatites and easily leachable ion adsorption clays, mainly because of the embodied energy in chemicals used for leaching, dissolution and separation.
This work is part funded by the NERC SoS RARE project, NE/M011429/1.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Mineralogical Society of America via the DOI in this record
Vol. 13 (5), pp. 313-318