Advertisement

Life cycle assessment with primary data on heavy rare earth oxides from ion-adsorption clays

  • Huijing Deng
  • Alissa KendallEmail author
LCA FOR ENERGY SYSTEMS AND FOOD PRODUCTS
  • 26 Downloads

Abstract

Purpose

Heavy and light rare earth elements (REEs) are critical to clean energy technologies, and thus the environmental impacts from their production are increasingly scrutinized. Most previous LCAs of REE production focus on sites producing light REEs. This research addresses this gap by collecting primary data from sites producing heavy rare earth oxides (HREOs) from ion-adsorption clays, conducting an LCA, and providing open-source life cycle inventory (LCI) datasets of HREO production for the LCA community.

Methods

This study conducts a LCA based on acquired primary data from four mining sites in Jiangxi Province, China. The functional unit is 1 kg of mixed HREOs of 90% purity from ion-adsorption clays using the technology of in situ leaching. Previous studies have used the Ecoinvent database, relying mostly on European or global life cycle inventories (LCIs). Here, the Chinese Life Cycle Database provided China-specific reference life cycle inventories (LCIs) for all inputs and processes with the exception of electricity generation LCIs used in a scenario analysis, which were provided by Ecoinvent 3. Twelve impact categories were examined using Impact 2002+, USEtox 2.01, and IPCC methods. Results are provided as a bounded range, reflecting low and high estimates based on collected primary data.

Results and discussion

Results show 1 kg of mixed HREOs emit 258–408 kg CO2e, and consume 270–443 MJ primary energy. These values fall within the range of previous LCAs that examined both bastnaesite/monazite deposits and ion-adsorption clays using literature values. Other impact categories considered are not similar across studies, however. Differences are due to variability in resource type and quality, technology, and modeling choices, such as reference LCI sources. Mining and extraction contribute most to impacts due to large quantities of chemicals for leaching and precipitation of REOs, and electricity consumption. Among chemicals, ammonium sulfate is the largest contributor to many impact categories. When China’s electricity grid mix change over time is included, environmental impacts for the whole production process can change up to 12%.

Conclusions

The primary contributions of this study are the collection and publication of primary data from mining companies in Jiangxi Province, China; the provision of open-source LCI datasets for mixed HREOs from ion-adsorption clays; and a comparison of results between this study and previously published studies. While the scope of this study concludes at the production of mixed HREO, which is a limitation, it provides a foundation for development of LCIs for refined heavy REEs.

Keywords

Dysprosium Heavy rare earth elements HREE LCA Life cycle inventory Mining 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We would like to extend particular thanks to the participating companies and their employees who provided data for this work, contingent on their anonymity.

Funding information

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. CBET-1337095.

Supplementary material

11367_2019_1582_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (59 kb)
ESM 1 (XLSX 58 kb)

References

  1. Alonso E, Sherman AM, Wallington TJ, Everson MP, Field FR, Roth R, Kirchain RE (2012) Evaluating rare earth element availability: a case with revolutionary demand from clean technologies. Environ Sci Technol 46:3406–3414CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Charles N, Tuduri J, Guyonnet D, Melleton J, Pourret O (2013) Rare earth elements in Europe and Greenland: a geological potential? An overview. 12th meeting of the Society of Geology Applied to Mineral Deposits (SGA):1698–1701.  https://doi.org/10.13140/2.1.3450.7206
  3. Cheng J, Che L (2010) Current mining situation and potential development of rare earth in China. Chin Rare Earths 31:65–69 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  4. Chi R, Zhou Z, Xu Z, Hu Y, Zhu G, Xu S (2003) Solution-chemistry analysis of ammonium bicarbonate consumption in rare-earth-element precipitation. Metall Mater Trans B 34:611–617 (in Chinese)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chi R, Tian J, Luo X, Xu Z, He Z (2012) The basic research on the weathered crust elution-deposited rare earth ores. Nonferrous Metals Sci Eng 3:1–13 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  6. China Energy Portal (2016) 2016 China electricity industry statistics. China electricity council. http://chinaenergyportal.org/en/2016-detailed-electricity-statistics/. Accessed 26 August 2017
  7. Chu J (2015) RE100: China’s fast track to a renewable future. China Analysis 2015Google Scholar
  8. Du X, Graede T (2011) Uncovering the global life cycles of the rare earth elements. Sci Rep 1:145–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ecoinvent Center (2016) Ecoinvent version 3 life cycle inventory database. Swiss Center for Life Cycle Inventories, St GallenGoogle Scholar
  10. Eriksson T, Olsson D (2011) The product chains of rare earth elements. Chalmers University of Technology, Report No 2011:8Google Scholar
  11. Gambogi J (2016) 2014 Minerals yearbook U.S. Geological Survey. U.S. Geological Survey, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  12. Hykawy J, Thomas A, Casasnovas G (2010) The rare earths: pick your spots carefully. Publication, Securities Division, Byron Capital Markets, UKGoogle Scholar
  13. Jun T, Jingqun Y, Guohua R, Mintao J, Ruan C (2011) Extraction of rare earths from the leach liquor of the weathered crust elution-deposited rare earth ore with non-precipitation. Int J Miner Process 98:125–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Koltun P, Tharumarajah A (2014) Life cycle impact of rare earth elements. ISRN Metall 2014:1–10.  https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/907536 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Li Y, Zhang L, Zhou X (2010) Resource and environment protected exploitation model for ion-type rare earth deposit in southern of China. Chin Rare Earths 31:80–85 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  16. Liao Z, He W, Liu H, Wang X, Ganzhou GT (2014) Quality assessment of geological environment of ion-absorbed rare-earth mine in Longnan County. Nonferrous Metals Sci Eng 5:885–889 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  17. Liu X, Wang H, Chen J, He Q, Zhang H, Jiang R, Chen X (2010) Method and basic model for development of Chinese reference life cycle database. J Environ Sci 30:2136–2144Google Scholar
  18. Mariano AN, Mariano A (2012) Rare earth mining and exploration in North America. Elements 8:369–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. MEP (2011) Emission standards of pollutants from rare earths industry. Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People’s Republic of China. Volume GB 26451–2011Google Scholar
  20. Moldoveanu G, Papangelakis V (2013) Recovery of rare earth elements from clay minerals: II. Leaching with ammonium sulfate. Hydrometallurgy 131-132:158–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Navarro J, Zhao F (2014) Life-cycle assessment of the production of rare-earth elements for energy applications: a review. Front Energy Res 2:45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Nuss P, Eckelman M (2014) Life cycle assessment of metals: a scientific synthesis. PLoS One 9:e101298.  https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0101298 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Schüler D, Buchert M, Liu R, Dittrich S, Merz C (2011) Study on rare earths and their recycling. Öko-Institut eV Darmstadt, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  24. Schulze R, Lartigue-Peyrou F, Ding J, Schebek L, Buchert M (2017) Developing a life cycle inventory for rare earth oxides from ion-adsorption deposits: key impacts and further research needs. J Sustain Metall 3:753–771CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. SCIO (2012) Situation and policies for China’s rare earth industry. Information Office of the State Council, China. Foreign Languages PressGoogle Scholar
  26. Smith SK (2015) Heavy rare earths, permanent magnets, and renewable energies: an imminent crisis. Energy Policy 79:1–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Sprecher B, Xiao Y, Walton A, Speight J, Harris R, Klejin R, Visser G, Kramer G (2014) Life cycle inventory of the production of rare earths and the subsequent production of NdFeB rare earth permanent magnets. Environ Sci Technol 48:3951–3958CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Su W (2009) Economic and policy analysis of China’s rare earth industry China. Financial and Economic Publishing House, BeijingGoogle Scholar
  29. Thinkstep (2017) GaBi ts 8.0. Leinfelden-EchterdingenGoogle Scholar
  30. U.S. Department of Energy (2010) Critical materials strategy. Washington, D.C. https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/edg/news/documents/criticalmaterialsstrategy.pdf
  31. Vahidi E, Navarro J, Zhao F (2016) An initial life cycle assessment of rare earth oxides production from ion-adsorption clays resources. Resour Conserv Recycl 113:1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Van Gosen B, Verplanck P, Long K, Gambogi J, Robert R, Seal I (2014) The rare-earth elements: vital to modern technologies and lifestyles. US Geological Survey, series number 2014–3078.  https://doi.org/10.3133/fs20143078
  33. Wang R (2013) Potential problems caused by in situ leaching of ion adsorption clays in South Jiangxi. Technol Inform 33:150–151 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  34. Wernet G, Bauer C, Steubing B, Reinhard J, Moreno-Ruiz E, Weidema B (2016) The ecoinvent database version 3 (part I): overview and methodology. Int J Life Cycle Assess 21:1218–1230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Xu G, Shi C, Wang D, Zhao Z, Wang D, He Z (2005) Urgent call on the protection of Bayan Obo area from radioactive pollution. Bull Chin Acad Sci 20:448–450 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  36. Yang X, Lin A, Li X, Wu Y, Zhou W, Chen Z (2013) China’s ion-adsorption rare earth resources, mining consequences and preservation. Environ Dev 8:131–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Yongfu Y (1992) Comprehensively recovering rare-earths from Bayan Obo low and medium grade oxide ores using a combined flowsheet of low intensity magnetic separation-high intensity magnetic separation-flotation separation. Min Metall Eng 12:58–61 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  38. Zaimes G, Hubler B, Wang S, Khanna V (2015) Environmental life cycle perspective on rare earth oxide production. ACS Sustain Chem Eng 3:237–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Zapp P, Marx J, Schreiber A, Friedrich B, Voßenkaul D (2018) Comparison of dysprosium production from different resources by life cycle assessment. Resour Conserv Recycl 130:248–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Zhao J, Tang X, Wu C (2001) Status quo of mining and recovering technologies for ion-absorbed rare earth deposits in China. Yunnan Metall 30:11–14 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  41. Zhou B, Li Z, Chen C (2017) Global potential of rare earth resources and rare earth demand from clean technologies. Minerals 7:203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Zou G (2012) A comparative study of the different mining and separating technologies of ion-absorbed rare earth from the perspective of production costs. Nonferrous Metals Sci Eng 3:53–56 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  43. Zou G, Wu Y, Dai S (2014) The impacts of ion-adsorption rare earth’s production technologies on resource and environment. Nonferrous Metals Sci Eng 5:1 (in Chinese)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Transportation StudiesUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

Personalised recommendations