A crustal scarcity indicator for long-term global elemental resource assessment in LCA
Journal article, 2020

Purpose: How to assess impacts of mineral resources is much discussed in life cycle assessment (LCA). We see a need for, and a lack of, a mineral resource impact assessment method that captures the perspective of long-term global scarcity of elements. Method: A midpoint-level mineral resource impact assessment method matching this perspective is proposed, called the crustal scarcity indicator (CSI), with characterization factors called crustal scarcity potentials (CSPs) measured as kg silicon equivalents per kg element. They are based on crustal concentrations, which have been suggested to correlate with several important resource metrics (reserves, reserve base, reserves plus cumulative production, and ore deposits), thereby constituting proxies for long-term global elemental scarcity. Results and discussion: Ready-to-use CSPs are provided for 76 elements, through which the CSI can be calculated by multiplying with the respective masses of elements extracted from Earth’s crust for a certain product. As follows from their crustal concentrations, the three platinum-group metals iridium, osmium, and rhodium have the highest CSPs, whereas silicon, aluminum, and iron have the lowest CSPs. Conclusion: An evaluation of the CSPs and the characterization factors of four other mineral resource impact assessment methods in LCA (the abiotic depletion, the surplus ore, the cumulative exergy demand, and the EPS methods) were conducted. It showed that the CSPs are temporally reliable, calculated in a consistent way, and have a high coverage of elements in comparison. Furthermore, a quantitative comparison with the characterization factors of the four other methods showed that the CSPs reflect long-term global elemental scarcity comparatively well while requiring a minimum of assumptions and input parameters. Recommendations: We recommend using the CSI for assessments of long-term global elemental scarcity in LCA. Since the CSI is at the midpoint level, it can be complemented by other mineral resource impact assessment methods (both existing and to be developed) to provide a more comprehensive view of mineral resource impacts in an LCA.

Resource use

Material footprint

Abiotic resource depletion

Life Cycle Assessment

Life cycle impact assessment

Author

Rickard Arvidsson

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Environmental Systems Analysis

Maria Ljunggren

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Environmental Systems Analysis

Björn Sandén

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Environmental Systems Analysis

Anders Nordelöf

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Environmental Systems Analysis

Hampus André

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Environmental Systems Analysis

Anne-Marie Tillman

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Environmental Systems Analysis

International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment

0948-3349 (ISSN)

Vol. 25 9 1805-1817

Environmental and resource performance of the nanomaterials graphene and nanocellulose

Formas, 2015-01-01 -- 2018-12-31.

Mistra REES – Resource-Efficient and Effective Solutions

The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (Mistra), 2016-01-01 -- 2019-12-31.

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Areas of Advance

Production

Energy

Subject Categories

Other Environmental Engineering

Environmental Management

DOI

10.1007/s11367-020-01781-1

More information

Latest update

3/23/2021