Advertisement

Sustainability Science

, Volume 12, Issue 5, pp 769–784 | Cite as

A life-cycle-based review of sulfur dioxide abatement installations in the South African platinum group metal sector

  • V. MunyonganiEmail author
  • H. von Blottnitz
  • J. L. Broadhurst
Special Feature: Original Article Sustainability Science for Meeting Africa’s Challenges
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Special Feature: Sustainability Science for Meeting Africa’s Challenges

Abstract

In the late 2000s, several South African platinum producers retrofitted sulfur dioxide abatement technologies to smelters in the Rustenburg area. While such end-of-pipe technologies can reduce local environmental impacts, they may also increase impacts associated material and energy use. Two methodologies were fused to study how these retrofits have shifted environmental burdens, and whether such knowledge would have been useful to design decision-makers. A life cycle assessment was carried out to determine the environmental impacts associated with the key design choices of these smelter and furnace flue gas SO2 abatement technologies, viz. technology choice and the fractional recovery of SO2. The two technology options used by industries and investigated were i) concentrated dual-alkali srubbing and ii) a srubber feeding an acid plant. The results show that the concentrated dual-alkali process has, overall, higher environmental impacts than the scrubber with acid plant. Notably, for the former, all environmental impacts (except acidification) increase with increasing SO2 recovery, whereas for the latter some impacts reduce with increasing recovery due to the by-product sulfuric acid that replaces acid otherwise produced. Subsequently, the results of the LCA were combined with insights from expert interviews to explore design decision-making in the minerals industry, and whether incorporating LCA in formal environmental assessment processes would be of any value to the minerals industry. Expert interviews revealed that incorporating LCA could enable the quantification of impacts for the different technology options, and help justify the chosen options. We argue that normalised results would enable more meaningful interpretation of LCA to further assist such decision-making processes.

Keywords

Decision making Life cycle assessment Environmental impacts Desulfurisation 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This work is based on research supported by the South African Research Chairs Initiative of the Department of Science and Technology and National Research Foundation of South Africa (NRF). Any opinion, finding, conclusion or recommendation expressed in this material is that of the authors and the NRF does not accept any liability in this regard.

Supplementary material

11625_2017_467_MOESM1_ESM.docx (630 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 629 kb)

References

  1. African Mining Legislation Atlas (2017). https://www.a-mla.org/. Accessed 14 Jun 2017
  2. Anglo American (2015) Driving change, defining our future. Integrated ReportGoogle Scholar
  3. Basson L, Petrie JG (2001) A roadmap for decision making in different decision contexts. In: Proceedings of the 6th World Congress of Chemical Engineering Melbourne, Australia. 23–27 September 2001. University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  4. Bezuidenhout GA, Davis J, Beek B Van (2012a) Operation of a concentrated mode dual-alkali scrubber plant at the Lonmin smelter. J South Afr Inst Min Metall 12:657–665Google Scholar
  5. Bezuidenhout GA, Davis J, Beek B Van (2012b) Operation of a concentrated mode dual-alkali scrubber plant at the Lonmin smelter. J South Afr Inst Min and Metall 12:657–665Google Scholar
  6. Braun V, Clarke V (2006) Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qual Res Psychol 3(2):37–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Broadhurst J, Kunene M, von Blottnitz H, Franzidis J-P (2015) Life cycle assessment of the desulfurisation flotation process to prevent acid rock drainage: a base metal case study 2015. Miner Eng 76Google Scholar
  8. Cano-Ruiz J, McRae G (1998) Environmentally conscious chemical process design. Annu Rev Energy Env 23:499–536CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chamber of Mines of South Africa (2017) Facts and figures 2016Google Scholar
  10. Corder GD, McLellan BC, Green S (2010) Incorporating sustainable development principles into minerals processing design and operation: SUSOP®. Miner Eng 23(3):175–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Daum KH (2009) Key to economic smelter acid plant operation. In: Proceedings of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy Sulphur and Sulphuric Acid Conference 2009Google Scholar
  12. Davenport WG, King MJ, Rogers B, Weissenberger A (2006) Sulphuric acid manufacture. In: Proceedings of the Southern African Pyrometallurgy Conference, 5–8 March 2006, JohannesburgGoogle Scholar
  13. Dubreuil A (2005) Life cycle assessment of metals: issues and research directions, 1st ed. MontrealGoogle Scholar
  14. Durucan S, Korre A, Munoz-Melendez G (2006) Mining life cycle modelling: a cradle-to-gate approach to environmental management in the minerals industry. J Clean Prod 14(12–13):1057–1070CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eksteen JJ, Van Beek B, Bezuidenhout GA (2011) Cracking a hard nut: an overview of Lonmin’s operations directed at smelting of UG2-rich concentrate blends. J South Afr Inst Min Metall 111:681–690Google Scholar
  16. Fernandez-Torres M, Randall D, Melamu R, von Blottnitz H (2012) A comparative life cycle assessment of eutectic freeze crystallization and evaporative crystallisation for the treatment of saline waste water. Desalination 306:17–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Giliomee H, Mbenga B (eds) (2007) New history of South Africa. In: The story of gold, Chapter 8. NB PublishersGoogle Scholar
  18. Glaister BJ, Mudd GM (2010) The environmental costs of platinum–PGM mining and sustainability: is the glass half-full or half-empty? Miner Eng 23:438–450CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Guma M, von Blottnitz H, Broadhurst J (2009) A systems approach for the application of eco-efficiency indicators for process design in the minerals industry. In: Proceedings of the 4th sustainable development in the minerals industry (SDIMI) conference. Gold Coast, Australia, Australasian Institute of Mining and MetallurgyGoogle Scholar
  20. Hellweg S, Milà-i-Canals L (2014) Emerging approaches, challenges and opportunities in life cycle assessment. Science 344:1109–1113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hundermark RJ, Mncwango SB, deVilliers LPvS, Nelson LR (2011) The smelting operations of Anglo American’s platinum business: an update. In: Proceedings of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy Pyrometallurgy Conference, Johannesburg, 6–9 MarchGoogle Scholar
  22. IIED (2001) Breaking new ground. Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development Project, International Institute for Environment and Development, LondonGoogle Scholar
  23. International Association of Impact Assessment (2016) The role of EIA in decision making. http://www.iaia.org/publications.php. Accessed 25 March 2016
  24. International Platinum Association (2014) The environmental profile of Platinum Group Metals (PGMs)Google Scholar
  25. Jones RT (2005) An overview of Southern African PGM smelting. In: Proceedings of the 44th annual conference of metallurgists on nickel and cobalt 2005: challenges in extraction and production, 21–24 August 2005, Calgary, Alberta, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  26. Kruger B (2004) Recovery of SO2 from low strength off-gases. In: Proceedings of the international platinum conference “Platinum Adding Value”, pp 59–62Google Scholar
  27. Lodhia S, Hess N (2014) Sustainability accounting and reporting in the mining industry: current literature and directions for future research. J Clean Prod 84:43–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Manuilova A, Suebsiri J, Wilson M (2009) Should life cycle assessment be part of the environmental impact assessment? Case study: EIA of CO2 capture and storage in Canada. Energy Procedia 1:4511–4518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Moran C, Lodhia S, Kunz N (2014) Special volume: the sustainability agenda of the minerals and energy supply and demand network: an integrative analysis of ecological, ethical, economic, and technological dimensions. J Clean Prod 84:1–848CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Morero B, Rodriguez MB, Campanella EA (2015) Environmental impact assessment as a complement of life cycle assessment. Case study: upgrading of biogas. Biores Technol 190:402–407CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Munyongani V (2016) Application of life cycle assessment in process design: case study on SO2 abatement technologies in the PGM sector. Master of Philosophy dissertation approved by the University of Cape TownGoogle Scholar
  32. Rebitzer G, Ekvall T, Frischknecht R, Hunkeler D, Norris G, Rydberg T, Schmidt WP, Suh S (2004) Life cycle assessment Part 1: framework, goal and scope definition, inventory analysis, and applications. Environ Int 30:701–720CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sichone MK (2009) Optimisation of anglo platinum’s ACP acid plant catalytic converter. In: Proceeding of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy Sulphur and Sulphuric Acid Conference 2009, pp 137–146Google Scholar
  34. Stewart M (2001) MMSD life cycle workshop: the application of life cycle assessment to mining, minerals, and metals. World Business Council for Sustainable Development, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  35. Tukker A (2000) Life cycle assessment as a tool in environmental impact assessment. Environ Impact Assess Rev 20:435–456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. UNEP (2009) Guidelines for social life cycle assessment of products. SETAC: life cycle initiative, pp 1–68Google Scholar
  37. van Berkel R (2007) Eco-efficiency in primary metals production: context, perspectives and methods. Resour Conserv Recycl 51(3):511–540CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Westcott G, Tacke M, Schoeman N, Morgan N (2007) Impala platinum smelter, Rustenburg—an integrated smelter off-gas treatment solution. J South Afr Inst Min Metall 107(5):281–287Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Minerals to Metals Initiative, Department of Chemical EngineeringUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations