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Resources 2016, 5(4), 32; doi:10.3390/resources5040032

Environmental Impacts of Rare Earth Mining and Separation Based on Eudialyte: A New European Way

1
Institute of Energy and Climate Research—Systems Analysis and Technology Evaluation (IEK-STE), Forschungszentrum Jülich, Jülich D-52425, Germany
2
Institute of Process Metallurgy and Metal (IME), RWTH Aachen University, Intzestraße 3, Aachen D-52056, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Diego Iribarren
Received: 20 September 2016 / Revised: 19 October 2016 / Accepted: 20 October 2016 / Published: 27 October 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Analysis of Energy Systems under Sustainability Aspects)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [3236 KB, uploaded 27 October 2016]   |  

Abstract

Neodymium and dysprosium are two rare earth elements (REEs), out of a group of 17 elements. Due to their unique properties, REEs gained increasing importance in many new technologies, like wind turbines, batteries, etc. However, the production of REEs requires high material and energy consumption and is associated with considerable environmental burdens. Due to the strong dependency of European industry on Chinese REE exports, this paper presents a possible European production chain of REEs based on the mineral eudialyte found in Norra Kärr (Sweden). This European production is compared to a Chinese route, as China produces more than 85% of today’s REEs. Bayan Obo as the largest REE deposit in China is considered as the reference system. Using the life cycle assessment method, the environmental impacts of both production lines are assessed. This study presents newly-estimated data of a possible Swedish eudialyte-based production route for Europe. Results for the new eudialyte process route show reduced environmental burdens, although the total REE content in eudialyte is much smaller than in the Bayan Obo deposit. Especially, the results for dysprosium from eudialyte outreach those for Bayan Obo due to the higher content of heavy rare earth elements. View Full-Text
Keywords: rare earth metals; neodymium; dysprosium; life cycle assessment; Bayan Obo; eudialyte rare earth metals; neodymium; dysprosium; life cycle assessment; Bayan Obo; eudialyte
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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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Schreiber, A.; Marx, J.; Zapp, P.; Hake, J.-F.; Voßenkaul, D.; Friedrich, B. Environmental Impacts of Rare Earth Mining and Separation Based on Eudialyte: A New European Way. Resources 2016, 5, 32.

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