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A Review of the Carbon Footprint of Cu and Zn Production from Primary and Secondary Sources

Research Institutes of Sweden, Division of Bioscience and Materials, Agrifood and Bioscience, Ideon, SE-22370 Lund, Sweden
Fundación Corporación Tecnológica de Andalucía (CTA), C/Albert Einstein, Edif. Insur, 4th Floor, 41092 Seville, Spain
Departamento de Ingeniería Química y Ambiental, Escuela Superior de Ingeniería, Universidad de Sevilla, Camino de los Descubrimientos S/N, 41092 Seville, Spain
ARCHE Consulting, Liefkensstraat 35D, BE-9032 Ghent, Belgium
Research Institutes of Sweden, Division of Build Environment, Energy and Circular Economy, Ideon, SE-22370 Lund, Sweden
School Mineral Resources Engineering, Technical University Crete, GR-73100 Chania, Greece
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Minerals 2017, 7(9), 168;
Received: 13 July 2017 / Revised: 2 September 2017 / Accepted: 9 September 2017 / Published: 13 September 2017
PDF [1203 KB, uploaded 18 September 2017]


Copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn) with their unique properties are central for economic growth, quality of life, and the creation of new jobs. The base-metal producing sector is, however, under growing public pressure in respect to energy and water requirements and needs to meet several challenges, including increased demand and lower ore grades, which are generally associated with larger resource use. The development of technologies for metal production from secondary sources is often motivated by increased sustainability, and this paper aims to provide further insights about one specific aspect of sustainability—namely, climate change. The paper presents a review of carbon footprints (CF) for Cu and Zn produced from primary and secondary raw materials by analyzing data taken from scientific literature and the Ecoinvent database. Comparisons are carried out based on the source of data selected as a reference case. The data available in the literature indicate that secondary production of Cu and Zn has the potential to be more beneficial compared to primary production regarding the impact on climate change. However, the technologies used today for the production of both metals from secondary sources are still immature, and more research on this topic is needed. The general variation of data suggests that the standardization of a comparison is needed when assessing the environmental benefits of production in line with the principles of waste valorization, the zero waste approach, and circular economy. View Full-Text
Keywords: Cu; Zn; circular economy; carbon footprint; mining; secondary materials; metal production Cu; Zn; circular economy; carbon footprint; mining; secondary materials; metal production

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Ekman Nilsson, A.; Macias Aragonés, M.; Arroyo Torralvo, F.; Dunon, V.; Angel, H.; Komnitsas, K.; Willquist, K. A Review of the Carbon Footprint of Cu and Zn Production from Primary and Secondary Sources. Minerals 2017, 7, 168.

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