Mining of Mineral Deposits

ISSN 2415-3443 (Online)

ISSN 2415-3435 (Print)

Flag Counter

Cradle-to-gate life cycle assessment of the production of separated mix of rare earth oxides based on Australian production route

Paul Koltun1, Vasyl Klymenko2

1Victoria University, Melbourne, VIC 3001, Australia

2Central Ukrainian National Technical University, Kropyvnytskyi, 25006, Ukraine

Min. miner. depos. 2020, 14(2):1-15

Full text (PDF)


      Purpose. Life cycle assessment (LCA) to investigate environmental impact resulting from the production of separated mixture of rare earth oxides (REO) mined in Australia.

      Methods. Analytical study of the literature reviews data, measurements and manufacturers’ reports, life cycle inventory databases and reasonable estimates of the processes involved in the production of a separated mixture of different REO was performed. To refine the data, was used an approach based on the basis of the matrix and Monte Carlo simulation. To estimate environmental impact from the production of each REO, the method of distributing the environmental impact between different REO was also used.

      Findings. The obtained results show that the production process of separated REO has a different environmental impact depending upon type of REO: for light REO global warming potential (GWP) is 1.7-3.9 t of CO2 eq./t of produced REO; a substantially higher impact for medium and heavy REO (GWP is about 90 t of CO2 eq. per tonne of REO). The major impact comes from production of praseodymium/neodymium (Pr/Nd) oxides (it’s about 80% for GWP). The environmental impact from the radioactivity exposure (if waste from the production process is properly managed) shows a relatively low contribution to overall impact on human health (about 0.2%).

      Originality.The paper pioneered the method of environmental impact distribution, developed by the authors considering the economic value associated with the removal of several co-products from the production processes. The Monte Carlo simulation was used to determine uncertainty of the obtained results during the LCA study. Such approach was allowed more accurately assess different components of the environmental impact resulting from REO production in Australia for the technology described in this paper.

      Practical implications. The results obtained in the study on the basis of the proposed methodology allows to identify environmental “hot spots” in the production of separated REO and take practical steps to reduce the negative environmental impact of such production.

      Keywords: rare earth elements, life cycle assessment, environmental impacts, Monte Carlo simulation


  1. United States Geological Survey (USGS). (2014). Mineral commodity summaries 2014. Washington, United States: Government Printing Office.
  2. Koltun, P., & Tharumarajah, A. (2014). Life cycle impact of Rare Earth Elements. ISRN Metallurgy, (2014), 1-10.
  3. Sprecher, B., Xiao, Y., Walton, A., Speight, J., Harris, R., Kleijn, R., & Kramer, G.J. (2014). Life cycle inventory of the production of rare earths and the subsequent production of NdFeB rare earth permanent magnets. Environmental Science & Technology, 48(7), 3951-3958.
  4. Zaimes, G.G., Hubler, B.J., Wang, S., & Khanna, V. (2015). Environmental life cycle perspective on rare earth oxide production. ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, 3(2), 237-244.
  5. Karshigina, Z., Abisheva, Z., Bochevskaya, Y., Akcil, A., Sargelova, E., Sukurov, B., & Silachyov, I. (2018). Recovery of rare earth metals (REMs) from primary raw material: sulphatization-leaching-precipitation-extraction. Mineral Processing and Extractive Metallurgy Review, 39(5), 319–338.
  6. Vahidi, E., Navarro, J., & Zhao, F. (2016). An initial life cycle assessment of rare earth oxides production from ion-adsorption clays. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, (113), 1-11.
  7. Lynas Pty Ltd. (2013a). Lynas quarterly report for period ending 30 June 2013.
  8. Mineral prices. (2013). Retrieved from
  9. Rare Earth Elements. (2013). Geoscience Australia.
  10. Frischknecht, R. (1997). Goal and scope definition and inventory analysis. In Life cycle assessment: state of the art and research priorities. Bayreuth, ‎Germany: Ecomed Publishers.
  11. Kinhill Engineers Pty Ltd. (1992). Mt Weld Rare Earth Project. Report.
  12. Bell, L. (2012). Rare earth and radioactive waste: a preliminary waste stream assessment of the Lynas advanced materials plant, Gebeng, Malaysia. National Toxics Network Report.
  13. Pre Consultants. (2011). LCA Software tool, SimaPro 7.3.
  14. Weidema, B.P., & Wesnæs, M.S. (1996). Data quality management for life cycle inventories – an example of using data quality indicators. Journal of Cleaner Production, 4(3-4), 167-174.
  15. ISO. (2006). International Standards Organization ISO 14040 Environmental management standard – Life cycle analysis – principles and framework.
  16. Lynas Pty Ltd. (2013b). Rare Earth – we touch them everyday, investor presentation, August.
  17. Google Earth 4 Software. (2013). Google.
  18. Jalal, T.S., & Bodger, P. (2009). National Energy Policies and the electricity sector in Malaysia. 2009 3rd International Conference on Energy and Environment (ICEE).
  19. Ingwersen, W. (2009). Life cycle inventory of gold mined at Yanacocha, Peru. Report. Gainesville, United States: Centre for Environmental Policy, Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences, University of Florida.
  20. Hartman, H.L. (1992). SME mining engineering handbook. Littleton, United States: Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration.
  21. Spielmann, M., Kägi, T., Stadler, P., & Tietje, O. (2004). Life cycle inventories of transport services. Dübendorf, Switzerland: Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories.
  22. Althaus, H., Chudacoff, M., Hischier, R., Jungbluth, N., Osses, M., & Primas, A. (2004). Life cycle inventories of chemicals. Dübendorf, Switzerland: Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories, EMPA-DU.
  23. Norgate, T., & Haque, N. (2010). Energy and greenhouse gas impacts of mining and mineral processing operations. Journal of Cleaner Production, 18(3), 266-274.
  24. Ecoinvent 2007, overview and methodology. (2007). Ecoinvent Report No. 1. Dübendorf, Switzerland: Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories.
  25. IAEA. (2011). International review mission on the radiation safety aspect of LAMP. Report. Kuala Lumpur‎, Malaysia.
  26. Lynas Pty Ltd. (2012). Lynas advance materials plant.
  27. Gupta, C.K., & Krishnamurthy, N. (1992). Extractive metallurgy of rare earths. International Materials Reviews, 37(1), 197-248.
  28. Zelikman, A.N. (1963). Metallurgy of rare earth. Moscow, Russian Federation: Metallurgizdat.
  29. Sinyaver, B.V. (1966). Autoclave process in nonferrous metallurgy. Nonferrous Metals Information Moscow, 171-185.
  30. Morais, C.A., & Ciminelli, V.S.T. (2004). Process development for the recovery of high-grade lanthanum by solvent extraction. Hydrometallurgy, 73(3-4), 237-244.
  31. Frischknecht, R., & Jungbluth, N. (2007). Implementation of life cycle impact methods. Data v 2.0. Dübendorf, Switzerland: Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories.
  32. Weidema, B.P. (1998). Multi-user test of the data quality matrix for product life cycle inventory data. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 3(5), 259-265.
  33. Лицензия Creative Commons