Special Issue "Economic, Environmental, and Social Assessments of Raw Materials for a Green and Resilient Economy"

A special issue of Resources (ISSN 2079-9276).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 July 2021) | Viewed by 13614

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Special Issue Editors

Dr. Andrea Thorenz
E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
Resource Lab, Institute of Materials Resource Management, University of Augsburg, Augsburg, Germany
Interests: economic, environmental, and social assessments of metal resources and renewable raw materials; waste and environmental management; industrial ecology; Life Cycle Assessment (LCA); dissipative losses of metals
Prof. Dr. Armin Reller
E-Mail
Guest Editor
Resource Lab, Institute of Materials Resource Management, University of Augsburg, Augsburg, Germany
Interests: resource strategies; resource-efficient functional materials for future-oriented technologies; resource management for materials science

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The main future challenge of our society is the mitigation of and adaptation to climate risks. This requires the penetration of future technologies (e.g., renewables and electric/hydrogen vehicles) and modern production and service concepts, such as closed-loop supply chains and a sharing economy.

A key requirement for this transformation process is the availability of primary and secondary resources as a base for functional materials. This comprises metals and minerals, as well as biogenic materials such as lignocellulose. Besides supply and availability risks, the mining, smelting, and refining of metals and minerals often implies environmental (e.g., exposure to radioactive substances in rare earth mining) and social risks (e.g., mining in conflict regions). The collection, disassembly, smelting, and refining of secondary materials can also cause environmental and social damage. Even the use of biogenic materials for a green economy entails environmental impacts that are linked to agriculture in general (e.g., degradation of soil organic matter, terrestrial acidification and eutrophication, and water consumption), and can be in conflict with food production, thereby compromising social and environmental goals.

Therefore, comprehensive and multidimensional assessments of primary and secondary resources for future-oriented technologies are needed. These assessments should address the economic, environmental, and social consequences of the supply of raw materials and functional materials.

In recent years, research on criticality and life cycle assessments has provided fundamental insights into the supply risk and environmental consequences of the mining processes of primary metals and minerals. In addition, the first social assessments have been conducted. For a sustainable transformation of our economy, this research has to be expanded in the direction of advanced functional materials, secondary raw materials, and biogenic resources in order to provide comprehensive policy recommendations for a sustainable and climate-resilient economy.

In this Special Issue, we would like to gather articles aimed at economic and/or environmental and/or social assessments in the following fields:

  • Raw material criticality assessments of metals, minerals, and biomass for future-oriented technologies and/or functional materials;
  • Assessments of secondary resources in regard to future-oriented technologies and/or functional materials;
  • Evaluation of case studies, for example on bioplastics or WEEE, in the context of the above-mentioned topics.

Dr. Andrea Thorenz
Prof. Dr. Armin Reller
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Resources is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • climate-resilient economy
  • raw materials
  • primary and secondary resources
  • economic, environmental, and social assessments
  • future-oriented technologies
  • functional materials
  • case studies

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Article
The Impact of Metal Mining on Global Water Stress and Regional Carrying Capacities—A GIS-Based Water Impact Assessment
Resources 2021, 10(12), 120; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources10120120 - 26 Nov 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2227
Abstract
The consumption of freshwater in mining accounts for only a small proportion of the total water use at global and even national scales. However, at regional and local scales, mining may result in significant impacts on freshwater resources, particularly when water consumption surpasses [...] Read more.
The consumption of freshwater in mining accounts for only a small proportion of the total water use at global and even national scales. However, at regional and local scales, mining may result in significant impacts on freshwater resources, particularly when water consumption surpasses the carrying capacities defined by the amount of available water and also considering environmental water requirements. By applying a geographic information system (GIS), a comprehensive water footprint accounting and water scarcity assessment of bauxite, cobalt, copper, iron, lead, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, uranium and zinc as well as gold, palladium, platinum and silver was conducted to quantify the influence of mining and refining of metal production on regional water availability and water stress. The observation includes the water consumption and impacts on water stress of almost 2800 mining operations at different production stages, e.g., preprocessed ore, concentrate and refined metal. Based on a brief study of mining activities in 147 major river basins, it can be indicated that mining’s contribution to regional water stress varies significantly in each basin. While in most regions mining predominantly results in very low water stress, not surpassing 0.1% of the basins’ available water, there are also exceptional cases where the natural water availability is completely exceeded by the freshwater consumption of the mining sector during the entire year. Thus, this GIS-based approach provides precise information to deepen the understanding of the global mining industry’s influence on regional carrying capacities and water stress. Full article
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Article
How to Identify Potentials and Barriers of Raw Materials Recovery from Tailings? Part II: A Practical UNFC-Compliant Approach to Assess Project Sustainability with On-Site Exploration Data
Resources 2021, 10(11), 110; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources10110110 - 29 Oct 2021
Viewed by 1092
Abstract
A sustainable raw materials (RMs) recovery from waste requires a comprehensive generation and communication of knowledge on project potentials and barriers. However, a standardised procedure to capture sustainability aspects in early project development phases is currently missing. Thus, studies on different RM sources [...] Read more.
A sustainable raw materials (RMs) recovery from waste requires a comprehensive generation and communication of knowledge on project potentials and barriers. However, a standardised procedure to capture sustainability aspects in early project development phases is currently missing. Thus, studies on different RM sources are not directly comparable. In this article, an approach is presented which guides its user through a practical interpretation of on-site exploration data on tailings compliant with the United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC). The development status of the overall project and the recovery of individual RMs are differentiated. To make the assessment results quickly comparable across different studies, they are summarised in a heat-map-like categorisation matrix. In Part I of this study, it is demonstrated with the case study tailings storage facility Bollrich (Germany) how a tailings mining project can be assessed by means of remote screening. In Part II, it is shown how to develop a project from first on-site exploration to a decision whether to intensify costly on-site exploration. It is concluded that with a UNFC-compliant assessment and classification approach, local sustainability aspects can be identified, and a commonly acceptable solution for different stakeholder perspectives can be derived. Full article
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Article
Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment of a Novel Bio-Based Multilayer Panel for Construction Applications
Resources 2021, 10(10), 98; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources10100098 - 29 Sep 2021
Viewed by 878
Abstract
The bioeconomy can be integral to transforming the current economic system into one with reduced environmental and social impacts of material consumption. This work describes a bio-based multi-layer panel that is based on residual coniferous bark. To ensure that the presented bio-based panel [...] Read more.
The bioeconomy can be integral to transforming the current economic system into one with reduced environmental and social impacts of material consumption. This work describes a bio-based multi-layer panel that is based on residual coniferous bark. To ensure that the presented bio-based panel positively contributes to environmental protection while remaining competitive with conventional products and meeting high social standards, the development of the panel is accompanied by a life cycle sustainability assessment. This study performs a comparative LCA and LCC of the developed panel to conventional benchmark panels, as well as a qualitative social life cycle assessment. While the panel performs only economically marginally weaker than the benchmarks, the results are more heterogeneous for the environmental dimension with benefits of the bio-based panel in categories such as climate change, acidification, and ozone formation and detriments in categories including eutrophication. The S-LCA analysis shows that all of the involved companies apply social principles in direct proximity; however, social responsibility along the supply chain could be further promoted. All results need to be viewed with the caveat that the manufacturing processes for the new panel have been implemented, to date, on a pilot scale and further improvements need to be achieved in terms of upscaling and optimisation cycles. Full article
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Article
Assessing the Application-Specific Substitutability of Lithium-Ion Battery Cathode Chemistries Based on Material Criticality, Performance, and Price
Resources 2021, 10(9), 87; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources10090087 - 25 Aug 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1035
Abstract
The material use of lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) is widely discussed in public and scientific discourse. Cathodes of state-of-the-art LIBs are partially comprised of high-priced raw materials mined under alarming ecological and social circumstances. Moreover, battery manufacturers are searching for cathode chemistries that represent [...] Read more.
The material use of lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) is widely discussed in public and scientific discourse. Cathodes of state-of-the-art LIBs are partially comprised of high-priced raw materials mined under alarming ecological and social circumstances. Moreover, battery manufacturers are searching for cathode chemistries that represent a trade-off between low costs and an acceptable material criticality of the comprised elements while fulfilling the performance requirements for the respective application of the LIB. This article provides an assessment of the substitutability of common LIB cathode chemistries (NMC 111, −532, −622, −811, NCA 3%, −9%, LMO, LFP, and LCO) for five major fields of application (traction batteries, stationary energy storage systems, consumer electronics, power-/garden tools, and domestic appliances). Therefore, we provide a tailored methodology for evaluating the substitutability of products or components and critically reflect on the results. Outcomes show that LFP is the preferable cathode chemistry while LCO obtains the worst rating for all fields of application under the assumptions made (as well as the weighting of the considered categories derived from an expert survey). The ranking based on the substitutability score of the other cathode chemistries varies per field of application. NMC 532, −811, −111, and LMO are named recommendable types of cathodes. Full article
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Article
The Potential and Limitations of Critical Raw Material Recycling: The Case of LED Lamps
Resources 2021, 10(4), 37; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources10040037 - 16 Apr 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1522
Abstract
Supply risks and environmental concerns drive the interest in critical raw material recycling in the European Union. Globally, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is projected to increase by almost 40% until 2030. This waste stream can be a source of secondary raw [...] Read more.
Supply risks and environmental concerns drive the interest in critical raw material recycling in the European Union. Globally, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is projected to increase by almost 40% until 2030. This waste stream can be a source of secondary raw materials. The determination of the economic feasibility of recycling and recovering specific materials is a data-intensive, time-consuming, and case-specific task. This study introduced a two-part evaluation scheme consisting of upper continental crust concentrations and raw material prices as a simple tool to indicate the potential and limitations of critical raw material recycling. It was applied to the case of light-emitting diodes (LED) lamps in the EU. A material flow analysis was conducted, and the projected waste amounts were analyzed using the new scheme. Indium, gallium, and the rare earth elements appeared in low concentrations and low absolute masses and showed only a small revenue potential. Precious metals represented the largest revenue share. Future research should confirm the validity and usefulness of the evaluation scheme. Full article
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Article
How to Identify Potentials and Barriers of Raw Materials Recovery from Tailings? Part I: A UNFC-Compliant Screening Approach for Site Selection
Resources 2021, 10(3), 26; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources10030026 - 16 Mar 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1476
Abstract
Mapping the raw material (RM) potential of anthropogenic RMs, such as tailings, requires a comprehensive assessment and classification. However, a simple procedure to quickly screen for potentially viable RMs recovery projects similar to reconnaissance exploration of natural mineral RMs is missing. In this [...] Read more.
Mapping the raw material (RM) potential of anthropogenic RMs, such as tailings, requires a comprehensive assessment and classification. However, a simple procedure to quickly screen for potentially viable RMs recovery projects similar to reconnaissance exploration of natural mineral RMs is missing. In this article, a quick and efficient approach to systematically screen tailings storage facilities (TSFs) is presented to evaluate if a particular TSF meets the criteria to be assessed in a more advanced study including costly on-site exploration. Based on aspects related to a TSF’s contents, physical structure, surroundings, potential environmental and social impacts, and potentially affected stakeholders, it guides its user in compiling the information at local scale in a structured manner compliant with the United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC). The test application to the TSF Bollrich (Germany), situated in a complex environment close to various stakeholders, demonstrates that a quick and remote assessment with publicly accessible information is possible. Since an assessment of tailings under conventional classification codes from the primary mining industry neglects relevant aspects, it is concluded that tailings should be considered as anthropogenic RMs. The developed screening approach can help to create a TSF inventory which captures project potentials and barriers comprehensively. Full article
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Article
Supply Risk Considerations for the Elements in Nickel-Based Superalloys
Resources 2020, 9(9), 106; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources9090106 - 31 Aug 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1955
Abstract
Nickel-based superalloys contain various elements which are added in order to make the alloys more resistant to thermal and mechanical stress and to the adverse operating environments in jet engines. In particular, higher combustion temperatures in the gas turbine are important, since they [...] Read more.
Nickel-based superalloys contain various elements which are added in order to make the alloys more resistant to thermal and mechanical stress and to the adverse operating environments in jet engines. In particular, higher combustion temperatures in the gas turbine are important, since they result in higher fuel efficiency and thus in lower CO2 emissions. In this paper, a semi-quantitative assessment scheme is used to evaluate the relative supply risks associated with elements contained in various Ni-based superalloys: aluminium, titanium, chromium, iron, cobalt, niobium, molybdenum, ruthenium, tantalum, tungsten, and rhenium. Twelve indicators on the elemental level and four aggregation methods are applied in order to obtain the supply risk at the alloy level. The supply risks for the elements rhenium, molybdenum and cobalt are found to be the highest. For three of the aggregation schemes, the spread in supply risk values for the different alloy types (as characterized by chemical composition and the endurance temperature) is generally narrow. The fourth, namely the cost-share’ aggregation scheme, gives rise to a broader distribution of supply risk values. This is mainly due to the introduction of rhenium as a component starting with second-generation single crystal alloys. The resulting higher supply risk appears, however, to be acceptable for jet engine applications due to the higher temperatures these alloys can endure. Full article
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Review

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Review
An Overview of Indicator Choice and Normalization in Raw Material Supply Risk Assessments
Resources 2021, 10(8), 79; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources10080079 - 04 Aug 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1548
Abstract
Supply risk assessments are an integral part of raw material criticality assessments frequently used at the country or company level to identify raw materials of concern. However, the indicators used in supply risk assessments to estimate the likelihood of supply disruptions vary substantially. [...] Read more.
Supply risk assessments are an integral part of raw material criticality assessments frequently used at the country or company level to identify raw materials of concern. However, the indicators used in supply risk assessments to estimate the likelihood of supply disruptions vary substantially. Here, we summarize and evaluate the use of supply risk indicators and their normalization to supply risk scores in 88 methods published until 2020. In total, we find 618 individual applications of supply risk criteria with 98 unique criteria belonging to one of ten indicator categories. The most often used categories of supply risk indicators are concentration, scarcity, and political instability. The most frequently used criteria are the country concentration of production, depletion time of reserves, and geopolitical risk. Indicator measurements and normalizations vary substantially between different methods for the same criterion. Our results can be used for future raw material criticality assessments to screen for suitable supply risk indicators and generally accepted indicator normalizations. We also find a further need for stronger empirical evidence of widely used indicators. Full article
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