sustainability-logo

Journal Browser

Journal Browser

New Environmental, Economic and Social Challenges for Raw Materials Supply: Sustainable Mining and Extractive Waste Exploitation

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Materials".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 January 2022) | Viewed by 29155

Special Issue Editors


E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Milano-Bicocca, 20090 Milano, Italy
Interests: Critical Raw Materials (CRM); sustainable mining & circular economy; characterization of ore & industrial minerals; quarries and mines; recovery of tailings and mining wastes; naturally-occurring asbestos (NOA); construction and building materials
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Torino, 10124 Torino, Italy
Interests: circular economy; sustainable mining; raw materials; mining and quarrying; environmental engineering
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Milan, 20133 Milan, Italy
Interests: chromitites; mineral deposits; acid mine drainage; critical metals
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The demand for raw materials and critical raw materials (e.g., REE, PGE, Li, Co, Ga, Ge, Re) is continuously growing, something which is highly connected to the development of climate-benefit technologies as well as high-technology applications. This demand will be more and more dependent on which technologies will become dominant in the marketplace, and the supply of raw materials is highly connected to international geopolitics strategies and global market conditions, as most of them are exploited in non-EU countries. Raw material supply is still guaranteed via ore deposit exploitation, as the recycling of critical elements (e.g., REE, Li) is neither feasible nor economically convenient; consequently, mining activities have increasingly been improving at a global level, and modern and more efficient technologies and mining techniques need to be applied to guarantee a sustainable mining. In the past, mining activity and extractive waste management were approached, mainly considering the environmental hazards and landscape degradation, but currently, the huge volumes of past mineral waste can represent an important source of raw materials. For these reasons, I propose a wide-ranging topic that can be summarized as follows: “New Environmental, Economic and Social Challenges for Raw Material Supply: Sustainable Mining and Extractive Waste Exploitation”. This highly interdisciplinary theme can therefore involve a wide scientific audience, from geologists to environmental and management engineers, to economists.

Dr. Alessandro Cavallo
Dr. Giovanna Antonella Dino
Prof. Dr. Giovanni Grieco
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. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly 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 2400 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

  • Critical raw materials
  • Sustainable mining
  • Circular economy
  • REE
  • LCA
  • Mining waste
  • Quarries and mines
  • Raw materials
  • Environmental impact
  • Waste recycling

Published Papers (10 papers)

Order results
Result details
Select all
Export citation of selected articles as:

Research

15 pages, 81596 KiB  
Article
Extractive Waste as a Resource: Quartz, Feldspars, and Rare Earth Elements from Gneiss Quarries of the Verbano-Cusio-Ossola Province (Piedmont, Northern Italy)
by Alessandro Cavallo and Giovanna Antonella Dino
Sustainability 2022, 14(8), 4536; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14084536 - 11 Apr 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1765
Abstract
The growing demand for raw materials requires the optimization of extractive processes and innovative approaches, such as the recovery of quarrying and processing waste. Waste materials from gneiss (ranging from blocks up to residual sludge) used as dimension stone (Beola and Serizzo [...] Read more.
The growing demand for raw materials requires the optimization of extractive processes and innovative approaches, such as the recovery of quarrying and processing waste. Waste materials from gneiss (ranging from blocks up to residual sludge) used as dimension stone (Beola and Serizzo from Piedmont, northern Italy) were characterized for chemistry, mineralogy, and petrography: quartz and feldspars (plagioclase and K-feldspar) are the most abundant minerals, followed by micas (biotite and minor muscovite) and traces of chlorite and epidote (allanite). Quartz and feldspars could be reused in the industrial minerals sector, especially in the ceramics industry; depending on the purity requirements of the raw materials, some mica separation treatments may be required. The most critical issues relate to the small grain size and the relative abundance of mica in some commercial varieties. The presence of allanite opens new possibilities for the recovery of rare earth elements (REE, critical raw materials). Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

17 pages, 1428 KiB  
Article
Cooperative Projects to Share Good Practices towards More Effective Sustainable Mining—SUGERE: A Case Study
by Giovanna Antonella Dino, Susanna Mancini, Manuela Lasagna, Sabrina Maria Rita Bonetto, Domenico Antonio De Luca, Maria Dolores Pereira, Esther Holden Baptista, Irina Ludmilla de Ferro Miranda Miguel, Ferdinalda Nuvunga, Sónia Silva Victória and Nelson Rodrigues
Sustainability 2022, 14(6), 3162; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14063162 - 8 Mar 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2836
Abstract
The supply of raw materials is a global challenge to be addressed; themes such as “sustainability”, “responsibility”, and “eco-compatibility” represent the cornerstones for proceeding towards a “wise” management of georesources. According to the United Nations’ SDGs, the economic development of countries must go [...] Read more.
The supply of raw materials is a global challenge to be addressed; themes such as “sustainability”, “responsibility”, and “eco-compatibility” represent the cornerstones for proceeding towards a “wise” management of georesources. According to the United Nations’ SDGs, the economic development of countries must go hand in hand with the improvement of their environmental, health, and social sustainability. From this perspective, the exploitation of georesources needs to be handled with an interdisciplinary approach that tackles not only the technical, economic, and environmental issues, but also the social, legislative, and human health ones. In recent years, Europe has promoted several cooperative projects aimed at boosting sustainability in the extractive industry. To achieve and guarantee concrete and truly sustainable mining, it is necessary to build and strengthen educational and training skills. With these objectives in mind, the first results of the EU–Africa SUGERE Erasmus+ project are presented here. The objects of the project are the implementation of Bachelor, Master, and doctoral curricula in geology and mining engineering and the promotion of socioeconomic development thanks to the training of experts who are able to cooperate and work in an interdisciplinary manner for a sustainable approach to local mine exploitation. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

17 pages, 4468 KiB  
Article
Hydrogen-Rich Gas Produced by the Chemical Neutralization of Reactive By-Products from the Screening Processes of the Secondary Aluminum Industry
by Roberto Ercoli, Andrea Orlando, Daniele Borrini, Franco Tassi, Gabriele Bicocchi and Alberto Renzulli
Sustainability 2021, 13(21), 12261; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132112261 - 6 Nov 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2503
Abstract
In the framework of the industry of secondary aluminum, the chemical neutralization of highly reactive materials that come from the pre-treatment screening processes of scraps (beverage cans and domestic appliances) was investigated through experiments in aqueous alkaline solutions. Metallic aluminum-rich by-products are classified, [...] Read more.
In the framework of the industry of secondary aluminum, the chemical neutralization of highly reactive materials that come from the pre-treatment screening processes of scraps (beverage cans and domestic appliances) was investigated through experiments in aqueous alkaline solutions. Metallic aluminum-rich by-products are classified, according to EU law, as dangerous waste, as they can potentially develop flammable gases capable of forming explosive mixtures with air. In this way they cannot be disposed of in landfills for non-hazardous wastes if chemical neutralization is not planned and performed beforehand. In this way, these experiments were mainly aimed at unraveling the oxidation rate and at quantifying the production of hydrogen-rich gases from the reactions of the metallic aluminum-rich by-products in a water-rich alkaline (liquid or vapor) environment. Reactions were carried out in a stainless-steel batch mini-reactor with metering and sampling valves, with the resulting gases analyzed by gas-chromatography (GC). The experimental setup was planned to avoid the following issues: (i) the corrosion of the reactor by the alkaline solution and (ii) the permeability of the system to hydrogen (i.e., possible leaks of H2), related to the fast kinetics and short duration of the reactions (which may hinder a pile-up-effect) between the solid by-products and the liquid. The procedure was defined by a controlled interaction process between metals and liquid, using NaOH to increase reaction rates. The experimental runs performed in the mini-reactor proved to be effective for eliminating the reactive metallic aluminum, reaching a maximum hydrogen production of 96% of the total gases produced in the experiments. The relations between gas generation (up to 55 bar of H2 in the experiments, which lasted for four days) and each specific parameter variation are discussed. All the obtained results can be transferred and applied to (i) the possible industrialization of the method for the chemical neutralization of these dangerous by-products, increasing sustainability and workplace safety, (ii) the use of the resulting hydrogen as a source of energy for the furnaces of the secondary aluminum industry itself, and (iii) new technological materials (e.g., “foamed geopolymers”), by using hydrogen as a foaming agent, coupled with aluminosilicate materials, during geopolymeric reactions. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

18 pages, 3105 KiB  
Article
Environmental Impact Variability of Copper Tailing Dumps in Fushe Arrez (Northern Albania): The Role of Pyrite Separation during Flotation
by Giovanni Grieco, Agim Sinojmeri, Micol Bussolesi, Giuseppe Cocomazzi and Alessandro Cavallo
Sustainability 2021, 13(17), 9643; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13179643 - 27 Aug 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2415
Abstract
Acid mine drainage and potentially toxic elements release are a major source of pollution in sulfide-rich mining sites. Pyrite is the most impacting mineral due to its high acidification potential when it reacts with water under oxidizing conditions. At the Fushe Arrez dressing [...] Read more.
Acid mine drainage and potentially toxic elements release are a major source of pollution in sulfide-rich mining sites. Pyrite is the most impacting mineral due to its high acidification potential when it reacts with water under oxidizing conditions. At the Fushe Arrez dressing plant in Northern Albania, a volcanic massive sulfide copper mining district, pyrite was in past separated, with a double flotation process, to produce a pyrite concentrate and relatively-pyrite-poor tailings. In the last twenty years single flotation has replaced the double flotation process and pyrite has been deposited in pyrite-rich tailings stacked separately from the old ones. The study of the solid tailing materials and natural waters flowing through the dumping area, together with leaching tests show that waters interacting with single flotation tailings are slightly more acidic and much higher in total metal contents than those interacting with double flotation tailings. Also, the metal distribution is different, with the former being higher in sulfide-hosted metals and the latter higher in gangue-hosted metals. It is thus suggested that separation of pyrite can play an important role in the sustainable mining of pyrite-rich ores, either for dumping high hazardous pyrite concentrate separately or for marketing it as a by-product. An implementation of studies for the industrial uses of pyrite is pivotal in this last case. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

8 pages, 2090 KiB  
Article
Research of the Behavior of Clay Materials with Double Porosity
by Hynek Lahuta and Luis Andrade Pais
Sustainability 2021, 13(6), 3219; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13063219 - 15 Mar 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1544
Abstract
This contribution presents results from a series of compression and undrained triaxial tests to study the mechanical behavior of dump clay from the north of Bohemia. The use of these materials as a foundation for construction can’t be achieved without the adoption of [...] Read more.
This contribution presents results from a series of compression and undrained triaxial tests to study the mechanical behavior of dump clay from the north of Bohemia. The use of these materials as a foundation for construction can’t be achieved without the adoption of some precautions. This comes from embankment, formed by digging the ground (altered claystone), up to the level of coal mining which is in a sub horizontal stratigraphic layer. A potential static liquefaction behavior was observed in undrained tests for high confinement stress. A structural collapse was noticed with the results obtained in the triaxial test. This collapse is characterized by an unexpected large decrease in deviator and mean effective stress. The soils formed have strength properties that are potentially dangerous. These concepts can improve the use of these kinds of soils in geotechnical engineering work. It continues and expands the results obtained in previous research, especially the future problematic use of these materials as the foundation soil for line or building structures. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

17 pages, 39391 KiB  
Article
Particle Size and Potential Toxic Element Speciation in Municipal Solid Waste Incineration (MSWI) Bottom Ash
by Luciana Mantovani, Mario Tribaudino, Chiara De Matteis and Valerio Funari
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 1911; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13041911 - 10 Feb 2021
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 1981
Abstract
The speciation of potentially toxic elements (PTE) in bottom ashes from municipal solid waste incineration (MSWI) and their relationship with grain size is investigated. The proposed enrichment of several potential toxic elements in lower sized grains is discussed, comparing the literature and new [...] Read more.
The speciation of potentially toxic elements (PTE) in bottom ashes from municipal solid waste incineration (MSWI) and their relationship with grain size is investigated. The proposed enrichment of several potential toxic elements in lower sized grains is discussed, comparing the literature and new data on Parma’s waste incinerator. Results from X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF), SEM-EDS, and XRD analyses on different grain size show (1) a positive Si-trend, correlated with grain size and few lithophile elements, such as Zr and Rb. In Parma, Al, K, Mg, and Fe also correlate with Si for the portion below 2 mm; (2) a Ca-trend, with a strong negative correlation with Si and a positive correlation with loss on ignition (LOI), S, Cl, Ti, Zn, Pb, and Sn. Mineralogical composition shows a little change in grain size, as in previous investigations, but with substantial differences in amorphous content. SEM-EDS analysis shows that the amorphous portion is highly heterogeneous, with portions coming from melting during incineration, residual glass, and unburnt loss on ignition (LOI). The above results show that PTE elements are either present as metals (such as Cu and Ni, or Zn, Pb and Sn) in carbonate, sulfate, and amorphous residual LOI portions. Full article
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

21 pages, 2279 KiB  
Article
Building of the Al-containing Secondary Raw Materials Registry for the Production of Low CO2 Mineral Binders in South-Eastern European Region
by Gorazd Žibret, Klemen Teran, Lea Žibret, Katarina Šter and Sabina Dolenec
Sustainability 2021, 13(3), 1535; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13031535 - 1 Feb 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2394
Abstract
The bottleneck in the process for increasing production of low CO2 mineral binders, based on BCSA (belite sulfoaluminate) clinkers, is the availability of Al-rich raw materials. For that purpose, a new registry of Al-containing secondary mineral residues (industrial and mine waste) has [...] Read more.
The bottleneck in the process for increasing production of low CO2 mineral binders, based on BCSA (belite sulfoaluminate) clinkers, is the availability of Al-rich raw materials. For that purpose, a new registry of Al-containing secondary mineral residues (industrial and mine waste) has been developed and is presented in this paper. The methodology of creating the registry consists of three main steps: Gathering ideas, consolidation of ideas, and implementation. In order to achieve this, the following methodology was adopted: Analysis of similar registries by potential end-users and seeking potential solutions and tools to be used, and conducting 3 rounds of stakeholder consultations via workshops in order to determine crucial parameters and features the registry needs to contain. The key discussion points were about which data the registry needs to contain, who shall be the potential users, and what are the stakeholder’s expectations from the registry’s portal. Potential individual registry variables were identified as being relevant/irrelevant or available/unavailable, and potential solutions for the registry’s sustainability were explored. Each Al-rich waste/residue data entry is divided into 10 slots, describing legal status, location, quantities, chemical (REE included), mineralogical, physical and radiological properties, life-cycle assessment, additional data, and data relevancy. The registry will act as a matchmaking tool between producers/holders of Al-rich secondary raw materials and potential producers of cement clinkers. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

24 pages, 8885 KiB  
Article
Sustainable Open Pit Mining and Technical Systems: Concept, Principles, and Indicators
by Aleksandr Rakhmangulov, Konstantin Burmistrov and Nikita Osintsev
Sustainability 2021, 13(3), 1101; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13031101 - 21 Jan 2021
Cited by 16 | Viewed by 6751
Abstract
Sustainability of the open pit mining and technical system (MTS) is one of its key goals in the changing conditions of the external and internal environment. All MTS’s subsystems must function in concert to achieve this goal. The structure of the MTS is [...] Read more.
Sustainability of the open pit mining and technical system (MTS) is one of its key goals in the changing conditions of the external and internal environment. All MTS’s subsystems must function in concert to achieve this goal. The structure of the MTS is formed by many subsystems and elements, which are evaluated by a significant number of indicators. A comprehensive assessment of the MTS for all possible indicators is a complex and time-consuming task. However, each subsystem and element of the MTS has a different effect on the sustainability of this system. The MTS’s parameters change significantly during transition periods, for example, at a new stage of open-pit mining or when switching to an open-underground method of developing mineral deposits. The MTS’s sustainability declines during the transition periods. Changes in the parameters of technological processes during these periods can have a negative impact on the state of the economic and social subsystems of mining enterprises, as well as on the environment. Ensuring the sustainability of an MTS during transition periods requires the development of new approaches and principles for managing the work of mining enterprises, based on the alignment of economic goals, with goals in the field of ecology and social development. The study substantiates the key role of one of the MTS subsystems—the opening-up of an opencast system (OOS). It is shown that this system has a decisive influence on sustainable functioning and development. The systematization of the principles of sustainable functioning and development of mining enterprises and its systems has been carried out. Four groups of principles are distinguished: system-wide principles of management, principles of development of mining enterprises, principles of MTS development, and principles of the MTS’s subsystem development. The proposed system of principles is based on the idea of a sequential transformation of the subsystems at all stages of design and operation. A feature of the proposal system of principles is the consideration of economic, social, and environmental aspects to ensure the specified parameters for the sustainable functioning and development of mining enterprises. The results of the analysis of the factors of the external and internal environment of the MTS are presented. The parameters and indicators for assessing the sustainability of OOS and MTSs were selected and substantiated. The justified parameters and indicators were ranked using the fuzzy Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP). The results of the assessment showed a high convergence of expert opinions on a group of economic parameters, which were rather high in technical and technological parameters. However, there is a divergence of expert opinions on social and environmental parameters. As a result of the study, it was concluded that the current management decisions are aimed at ensuring the economic and technological sustainability of MTS functioning, while achieving the goals of sustainable development of this system is not ensured. The methodology developed and presented in the study can be used to assess the sustainability of the functioning and development of MTSs. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

23 pages, 4290 KiB  
Article
New Developments for the Sustainable Exploitation of Ornamental Stone in Carrara Basin
by Federico Vagnon, Giovanna Antonella Dino, Gessica Umili, Marilena Cardu and Anna Maria Ferrero
Sustainability 2020, 12(22), 9374; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12229374 - 11 Nov 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 2560
Abstract
The use of natural stone has historical and environmental value that makes it strategically valuable for landscape conservation in Europe. Marble, among others, is widely spread on Earth, and it offers high-performance features in architectural applications. However, the complexity of these formations and [...] Read more.
The use of natural stone has historical and environmental value that makes it strategically valuable for landscape conservation in Europe. Marble, among others, is widely spread on Earth, and it offers high-performance features in architectural applications. However, the complexity of these formations and the rock variability in different ore bodies require detailed studies of the natural and induced stress state, the fracturing degree, and the influence of external factor (such as temperature and/or chemical agents) on the mechanical properties in order to optimize the exploitation processes by reducing extractive waste. This article shows a series of studies conducted by the authors over the last 20 years aimed at making the exploitation of marble blocks in the Carrara basin safer, more efficient, and, therefore, more sustainable. In particular, studies for increasing our knowledge of the natural and the induced stress state through on-site measurements and numerical modeling, studies to improve the quality of the exploited material through improvements of cutting technologies, studies to improve the knowledge of the mechanical behavior of the material under varying loads and temperature conditions, and studies to improve the reuse of water materials and their reduction are reported. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

14 pages, 3885 KiB  
Article
Ophiolite Chromite Deposits as a New Source for the Production of Refractory Chromite Sands
by Micol Bussolesi, Giovanni Grieco, Alireza Eslami and Alessandro Cavallo
Sustainability 2020, 12(17), 7096; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12177096 - 31 Aug 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2846
Abstract
Chromite foundry sands, mixed with binding resins, are employed in the industry to form molds for high demanding casting of metals and steel. As there is no substitute, these sands highly contribute to placing chromium at the top value of the economic importance [...] Read more.
Chromite foundry sands, mixed with binding resins, are employed in the industry to form molds for high demanding casting of metals and steel. As there is no substitute, these sands highly contribute to placing chromium at the top value of the economic importance parameter in the EU classification of critical raw materials. Finding new sources to produce these sands can contribute to lowering its criticality. Chromite foundry sands must meet strict quality parameters, referred to as Cr2O3 content, Fineness Index, SiO2 content, and Acid Demand. The foundry chromite market is dominated by South Africa production deriving from layered intrusion chromite deposits. Chromite sands from ophiolite chromite deposits, normally used for the metallurgical-grade chromite market, were tested as an alternative starting raw material to produce chromite foundry sands. The study of the silicate impurities assemblage showed that its mineralogy strongly affects the result of the most crucial parameter, the Acid Demand. Ophiolite chromite with serpentine impurities should be depurated to a hardly affordable 0.31% SiO2 content to meet Acid Demand quality threshold, due to high reactivity of this silicate with the acid environment of the test. Those with olivine impurities require to be depurated to a much more easily affordable 2.11% SiO2 content. As a result, ophiolite chromite with an olivine dominated silicate assemblage can be used as an alternative source of chromite foundry sands. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Back to TopTop