Issues and challenges in life cycle assessment in the minerals and metals sector: a chance to improve raw materials efficiency

Mohan Yellishetty, Nawshad Haque, Alain Dubreuil

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    A critical review was conducted on existing literature concerning life cycle assessment (LCA) and its application to the minerals and metals sector. This extensive literature search uncovers many of the issues that require immediate attention from the scientific community involved with LCA. The methodological drawbacks, mainly problems with inconsistencies in LCA results for the same situation under different assumptions and issues related to data quality, are considered to be the current shortcomings of LCA. In the minerals and metals sector, it is important to increase the objectivity of LCA by way of estimating and reporting those uncertainties; for example, whether land use has to be considered in detail or at a rough level. In regard to abiotic resource characterisation, the weight and time scales to be considered become a very critical issue of judgement. How the temporal and spatial dimensions should be incorporated into LCA is one of the biggest challenges ahead for those who are concerned. Addressing these issues will enable LCA to be used as a policy tool in environmental decision making. There has been enormous unresolved debate with respect to land use impacts, abiotic resource depletion, allocation procedure openloop recycling and spatial and temporal dimensions. An example case has been presented for Australian iron ore using SimaPro software based on published inventory data to demonstrate that uniformity is required. Discussions aimed at bringing consensus amongst all the stakeholders involved in LCA (i.e. industry, academia, consulting organisations and government) have been presented. In addition, a commentary of different points of view on these issues has been provided. This review brings into perspective some of those contentious issues that are widely debated by many researchers. Finally, the authors conclude with their views on the prospects of LCA for future research endeavours.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationNon-Renewable Resource Issues: Geoscientific and Societal Challenges
    Subtitle of host publicationGeoscientific and Societal Challenges
    EditorsRichard Sinding-Larsen, Friedrich-W Wellmer
    Place of PublicationDordrecht Netherlands
    PublisherSpringer
    Pages229-246
    Number of pages18
    ISBN (Electronic)9789048186792
    ISBN (Print)9789048186785
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2012

    Keywords

    • Abiotic resource depletion
    • Acidification
    • Allocation
    • Land use
    • LCA
    • Minerals and metals sector
    • Spatial variability
    • Temporal differentiation
    • Toxicity

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