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Decreasing Ore Grades in Global Metallic Mining: A Theoretical Issue or a Global Reality?

Author

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  • Guiomar Calvo

    (Research Centre for Energy Resources and Consumption (CIRCE)—Universidad de Zaragoza, CIRCE Building—Campus Río Ebro, Mariano Esquillor Gómez, 15, 50018 Zaragoza, Spain)

  • Gavin Mudd

    (Environmental Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering, Monash University, Wellington Rd, Clayton VIC 3800, Australia)

  • Alicia Valero

    (Research Centre for Energy Resources and Consumption (CIRCE)—Universidad de Zaragoza, CIRCE Building—Campus Río Ebro, Mariano Esquillor Gómez, 15, 50018 Zaragoza, Spain)

  • Antonio Valero

    (Research Centre for Energy Resources and Consumption (CIRCE)—Universidad de Zaragoza, CIRCE Building—Campus Río Ebro, Mariano Esquillor Gómez, 15, 50018 Zaragoza, Spain)

Abstract

Mining industry requires high amounts of energy to extract and process resources, including a variety of concentration and refining processes. Using energy consumption information, different sustainability issues can be addressed, such as the relationship with ore grade over the years, energy variations in electricity or fossil fuel use. A rigorous analysis and understanding of the energy intensity use in mining is the first step towards a more sustainable mining industry and, globally, better resource management. Numerous studies have focused on the energy consumption of mining projects, with analysis carried out primarily in one single country or one single region. This paper quantifies, on a global level, the relationship between ore grade and energy intensity. With the case of copper, the study has shown that the average copper ore grade is decreasing over time, while the energy consumption and the total material production in the mine increases. Analyzing only copper mines, the average ore grade has decreased approximately by 25% in just ten years. In that same period, the total energy consumption has increased at a higher rate than production (46% energy increase over 30% production increase).

Suggested Citation

  • Guiomar Calvo & Gavin Mudd & Alicia Valero & Antonio Valero, 2016. "Decreasing Ore Grades in Global Metallic Mining: A Theoretical Issue or a Global Reality?," Resources, MDPI, vol. 5(4), pages 1-14, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jresou:v:5:y:2016:i:4:p:36-:d:82270
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. James West, 2011. "Decreasing Metal Ore Grades," Journal of Industrial Ecology, Yale University, vol. 15(2), pages 165-168, April.
    2. Valero, Al. & Valero, A., 2011. "A prediction of the exergy loss of the world's mineral reserves in the 21st century," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 36(4), pages 1848-1854.
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    5. Mudd, Gavin M., 2007. "Global trends in gold mining: Towards quantifying environmental and resource sustainability," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(1-2), pages 42-56.
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