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Sustainability 2018, 10(3), 723; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10030723

Exergoecology Assessment of Mineral Exports from Latin America: Beyond a Tonnage Perspective

1
Departamento de Ingeniería Mecánica, Escuela Politécnica Nacional, Ladrón de Guevara E11·253, P.O.·Box 17-01-2759, Quito, Ecuador
2
Research Centre for Energy Resources and Consumption (CIRCE), Universidad de Zaragoza, Calle Mariano Esquillor Gómez, 15, 50018 Zaragoza, Spain
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 27 November 2017 / Revised: 28 February 2018 / Accepted: 3 March 2018 / Published: 6 March 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability in the Mining, Minerals and Energy Industries)
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Abstract

Latin America has traditionally been a raw material supplier since colonial times. In this paper, we analyze mineral exports from an exergoecology perspective from twenty countries in Latin American (LA-20). We apply material flow analysis (MFA) principles along with the concept of the exergy replacement cost (ERC), which considers both quantity and thermodynamic quality of minerals, reflecting their scarcity in the crust. ERC determines the energy that would be required to recover minerals to their original conditions in the mines once they have been totally dispersed into the Earth’s crust, with prevailing technology. Using ERC has helped us identify the importance of certain traded minerals that could be overlooked in a traditional MFA based on a mass basis only. Our method has enabled us to determine mineral balance, both in mass (tonnes) and in ERC terms (Mtoe). Using indicators, both in mass and ERC, we have assessed the self-sufficiency and dependency of the region. We have also analyzed the mineral exports flows from Latin America for 2013. Results show that half of the mineral production from LA-20 was mainly exported. High-quality minerals, such as, gold, silver, and aluminum were largely exported to China and the United States. Extraction of high-quality minerals also implies higher losses of natural stock and environmental overburdens in the region. View Full-Text
Keywords: Latin America; material flow analysis; exergy replacement cost; mineral trade; mineral exports; domestic material consumption Latin America; material flow analysis; exergy replacement cost; mineral trade; mineral exports; domestic material consumption
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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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Palacios, J.-L.; Calvo, G.; Valero, A.; Valero, A. Exergoecology Assessment of Mineral Exports from Latin America: Beyond a Tonnage Perspective. Sustainability 2018, 10, 723.

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