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Life Cycle Assessment in mineral processing – a review of the role of flotation

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Title: Life Cycle Assessment in mineral processing – a review of the role of flotation
Authors: Marmiroli, B
Rigamonti, L
Brito-Parada, PR
Item Type: Journal Article
Abstract: Purpose The aim of this literature review is to investigate the role of the beneficiation stage in the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of metals and minerals with a focus on the flotation process. Methods The systematic literature search included LCA studies comprising the beneficiation stage in their system boundaries and resulted in 29 studies that met the criteria requirements and were analysed. First, the system boundaries are investigated, along with the level of detail in the description of the sub-processes (e.g. flotation) and data granularity. Then, the life cycle inventories are scrutinised: data transparency and the relation between system granularity and data availability is commented. Of particular relevance, the way in which the functional unit is dealt with is examined. Finally, studies impact assessments are compared and discussed, and key parameters are highlighted. Results and discussion For system boundaries, beneficiation is generally embedded into the mining stage. Even when described on its own, important sub-processes (e.g. flotation) are not considered, except for eight cases analysed. Functional unit definition is hindered by the output of the system being an intermediate product. Indeed, most studies use a declared functional unit but fail to provide its relevant characteristics, which is essential for a correct interpretation of results and for comparisons. Most studies rely on secondary data, not always presented transparently, to describe beneficiation. Results on the role of beneficiation in the metal value chain environmental impacts are conflicting, partly because of its site dependency. Site-dependent parameters found to be determining are ore grade, energy mix, mining technique, concentrate grade and ore mineralogy. Conclusions The flotation process, and more generally the beneficiation stage, is typically overlooked in LCA studies despite its growing relevance. Beneficiation not being assessed as a standalone stage, detailed in its subprocess, the use of outdated and secondary data, along with a lack of transparency in the inventory and in the key parameters are all factors that affect the environmental assessment of the entire metal and mineral sector, and thus the LCA of many products. Recommendation Greater efforts should be allocated to considering the sub-processes in the beneficiation stage, particularly flotation. Information on the identified key parameters should be available to the practitioners and sensitivity analyses to investigate their influence are recommended. Hotspots specific to flotation have been identified and should be used to orient data gathering when focusing on this process. Five options of functional unit and their application are recommended.
Issue Date: 4-Dec-2021
Date of Acceptance: 18-Nov-2021
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10044/1/93380
DOI: 10.1007/s11367-021-02005-w
ISSN: 0948-3349
Publisher: Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Start Page: 62
End Page: 81
Journal / Book Title: The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Volume: 27
Copyright Statement: © The Author(s) 2021. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Sponsor/Funder: Commission of the European Communities
Funder's Grant Number: 821265
Keywords: Environmental Sciences
0907 Environmental Engineering
0912 Materials Engineering
1202 Building
Publication Status: Published online
Open Access location: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-021-02005-w
Online Publication Date: 2021-12-04
Appears in Collections:Earth Science and Engineering
Faculty of Engineering

This item is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons