Cost-benefit analysis of copper recovery in remediation projects: A case study from Sweden
Journal article, 2017

Contamination resulting from past industrial activity is a problem throughout the world and many sites are severely contaminated by metals. Advances in research in recent years have resulted in the development of technologies for recovering metal from metal-rich materials within the framework of remediation projects. Using cost-benefit analysis (CBA), and explicitly taking uncertainties into account, this paper evaluates the potential social profitability of copper recovery as part of four remediation alternatives at a Swedish site. One alternative involves delivery of copper-rich ash to a metal production company for refining. The other three alternatives involve metal leaching from materials and sale of the resulting metal sludge for its further processing at a metal production company using metallurgical methods. All the alternatives are evaluated relative to the conventional excavation and disposal method. Metal recovery from the ash, metal sludge sale, and disposal of the contaminated soil and the ash residue at the local landfill site, was found to be the best remediation alternative. However, given the present conditions, its economic potential is low relative to the conventional excavation and disposal method but higher than direct disposal of the copper-rich ash for refining. Volatile copper prices, the high cost of processing equipment, the highly uncertain cost of the metal leaching and washing process, coupled with the substantial project risks, contribute most to the uncertainties in the CBA results for the alternatives involving metal leaching prior to refining. However, investment in processing equipment within the framework of a long-term investment project, production of safe, reusable soil residue, and higher copper prices on the metal market, can make metal recovery technology socially profitable.

Optimization Metal recycling

Metal recovery

Uncertainty analysis

Remediation Contaminated sites

Cost-benefit analysis


Yevheniya Volchko

Chalmers, Civil and Environmental Engineering, GeoEngineering

Jenny Norrman

Chalmers, Civil and Environmental Engineering, GeoEngineering

Lars Rosen

Chalmers, Civil and Environmental Engineering, GeoEngineering

Karin Karlfeldt Fedje

Chalmers, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Water Environment Technology

Science of the Total Environment

0048-9697 (ISSN)

Vol. 605 300-314

Subject Categories

Earth and Related Environmental Sciences



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