Life cycle analysis of copper-gold-lead-silver-zinc beneficiation process

Shahjadi Hisan Farjana, Nazmul Huda*, M. A. Parvez Mahmud

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Gold, silver, lead, zinc, and copper are valuable non-ferrous metals that paved the way for modern civilisation. However, the environmental impacts from their beneficiation stage was always overlooked. This paper analysed the life cycle environmental impacts from the beneficiation process of gold-silver-lead-zinc-copper combined production. The analysis is conducted by utilising the SimaPro software version 8.5. The life cycle assessment methodologies followed are the International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) method, the IMPACT 2002+ method, and the Cumulative Energy Demand Method (CED). The most significant impact categories are ecotoxicity, climate change, human toxicity, eutrophication, acidification, and ozone depletion among nearly 15 impact categories which are assessed in this study. The analysis results from the ILCD method indicate that there is a noteworthy impact on ionising radiation caused by the beneficiation process. Out of the five metals considered, gold and silver beneficiation impacts the most while lead‑zinc beneficiation impacts the least. Gold beneficiation has most impacts on the category of climate change and ecosystems. Other major impact categories are ionising radiation, terrestrial eutrophication, photochemical ozone formation, human toxicity, and acidification. The IMPACT 2002+ method shows the overall impact is on ecosystem quality and human health from this combined beneficiation process, dominantly from gold‑silver beneficiation. The life-cycle inventory results show that the blasting process and the amount of electricity consumption in the beneficiation process contribute to cause significant amount of environmental impacts. The comparative impact results are presented and discussed in detail in this paper. Sensitivity analyses are presented based on various electricity grid-mix scenarios and energy-mix scenarios, and the results suggest that electricity grid mix has a dominant effect over the fossil-fuel mix. This paper also highlights the potential steps which could cut down the environmental effects by integrating renewable-energy technologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-52
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • Beneficiation
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Lead
  • Zinc
  • Copper


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