Sustainability challenges of critical minerals for clean energy technologies: copper and rare earths
Source of Publication
The transition to a clean energy economy in an effort to mitigate climate change has brought the need for intense mining exploration of a critical class of minerals, previously mined and used at a fraction of what is required today and for the upcoming decades. For some common metals, such as copper, major deficits are forecasted to 2030, and for some less common, such as rare earths, mined quantities have currently increased 32 times relative to the mid-1950s, and are expected to increase sevenfold from current levels by 2040. This situation is expected to become more severe given the long timespan needed for exploration of new sites, the declining ore grade of existing mines, the geographical distribution of these minerals, and the environmental degradation caused by mining and mineral processing activities. It becomes, hence critical to vastly improve existing mining operations, reduce waste volumes and fresh water use, reduce environmental impacts, and recover increased quantities of minerals from mine tailings, as well as from the recycling of post-production products. The current article focuses on copper and rare earths to expound on their exploitation issues, their processes, the sustainable utilization of mineral waste and tailings, and their recovery from end-of-life consumer and industrial items.
Thomas Telford Ltd.
Clean energy technologies, Copper, Rare earths, Sustainable utilization, Mining exploration
Paleologos, Evan K; Mohamed, Abdel-Mohsen O; Singh, Devendra N; O’Kelly, Brendan C; Gamal, Maisa El; Mohammad, Ameera; Singh, Prithvendra; Goli, Venkata SNS; Roque, António J; Oke, J A; Abuel-Naga, H; and Leong, Eng-Choon, "Sustainability challenges of critical minerals for clean energy technologies: copper and rare earths" (2024). All Works. 6341.
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