A1 Journal article (refereed), original research

Towards mine tailings valorization: Recovery of critical materials from Chilean mine tailings

Open Access publication

Publication Details
Authors: Araya Natalia, Kraslawski Andrzej, Cisternas Luis
Publisher: Elsevier
Publication year: 2020
Language: English
Related Journal or Series Information: Journal of Cleaner Production
Journal acronym: JCP
Volume number: 263
ISSN: 0959-6526
eISSN: 1879-1786
JUFO-Level of this publication: 2
Open Access: Open Access publication
Location of the parallel saved publication: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi-fe2020050424844


The mining industry produces large volumes of mine tailings – a mix of crushed rocks and process effluents from the processing of mineral ores. Mine tailings are a major environmental issue due to implications related to their handling and storage. Depending on the mined ore and the process used, it may be possible to recover valuable elements from mine tailings, among them critical raw materials (CRMs) like rare earths, vanadium, and antimony.

The aim of this study was to investigate the techno-economic feasibility of producing critical raw materials from mine tailings. Data from 477 Chilean tailings facilities were analyzed and used in the techno-economic assessment of the valorization of mine tailings in the form of CRMs recovery. A review of applicable technologies was performed to identify suitable technologies for mine tailings processing. To assess the economic feasibility of CRMs production, net present value (NPV) was calculated using the discounted cash flow (DCF) method. Sensitivity analysis and design of experiments were performed to analyze the influence of independent variables on NPV. Two options were assessed, rare earth oxides (REOs) production and vanadium pentoxide (V2O5) production. The results show that it is possible to produce V2O5 with an NPV of 76 million US$. In the case of REOs, NPV is positive but rather low, which indicates that the investment is risky. Sensitivity analysis and the ANOVA run using the design of experiments indicated that the NPV of REOs is highly sensitive to the price of REOs and to the discount rate.

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Last updated on 2020-06-05 at 12:58