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Resources 2016, 5(1), 2; doi:10.3390/resources5010002

Surplus Cost Potential as a Life Cycle Impact Indicator for Metal Extraction

1
Radboud University Nijmegen, Faculty of Science, Department of Environmental Science, P.O. Box 9010, Nijmegen 6500 GL, The Netherlands
2
PRé Consultants b.v., Stationsplein 121, Amersfoort 3818 LE, The Netherlands
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Mario Schmidt
Received: 28 October 2015 / Revised: 20 December 2015 / Accepted: 22 December 2015 / Published: 6 January 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Consideration of Abiotic Natural Resources in Life Cycle Assessments)
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Abstract

In the evaluation of product life cycles, methods to assess the increase in scarcity of resources are still under development. Indicators that can express the importance of an increase in scarcity of metals extracted include surplus ore produced, surplus energy required, and surplus costs in the mining and the milling stage. Particularly the quantification of surplus costs per unit of metal extracted as an indicator is still in an early stage of development. Here, we developed a method that quantifies the surplus cost potential of mining and milling activities per unit of metal extracted, fully accounting for mine-specific differences in costs. The surplus cost potential indicator is calculated as the average cost increase resulting from all future metal extractions, as quantified via cumulative cost-tonnage relationships. We tested the calculation procedure with 12 metals and platinum-group metals as a separate group. We found that the surplus costs range six orders of magnitude between the metals included, i.e., between $0.01–$0.02 (iron) and $13,533–$17,098 (rhodium) USD (year 2013) per kilogram of metal extracted. The choice of the reserve estimate (reserves vs. ultimate recoverable resource) influenced the surplus costs only to a limited extent, i.e., between a factor of 0.7 and 3.2 for the metals included. Our results provide a good basis to regularly include surplus cost estimates as resource scarcity indicator in life cycle assessment. View Full-Text
Keywords: characterization factors; endpoint; life cycle assessment; metals; mining; resource scarcity characterization factors; endpoint; life cycle assessment; metals; mining; resource scarcity
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Vieira, M.D.; Ponsioen, T.C.; Goedkoop, M.J.; Huijbregts, M.A. Surplus Cost Potential as a Life Cycle Impact Indicator for Metal Extraction. Resources 2016, 5, 2.

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