Life-Cycle Inventory Database

1. Concept

  • To create a benchmark for the industry and to measure and communicate the environmental impact of products containing rare-earth elements (REEs).
  • To develop the most up-to-date Life-Cycle Inventory (LCI) for REE production by and for REIA members.

2. Motivation

  • As the world places more and more emphasis on the “green technologies” to address climate change issues and UN sustainable development goals, it is increasingly important to understand the life cycles of the underlying raw materials.
  • Several Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) studies pointed out that the environmental impact of REE production is high in the case of several REE-containing products. However, much of this data is sourced from literature or is estimated so contains a high degree of uncertainty.

3. REEs

  • REEs are essential for the transition towards sustainability. However, REEs are critical metals with some of the highest environmental impacts.

4. LCA

  • LCA is a decision-making tool used to identify environmental burdens, and to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of goods or services over their life cycle, from cradle-to-grave.
  • LCA has been standardised under the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and forms the conceptual basis for a number of management approaches and standards, which consider the life-cycle impacts of product systems.

5. LCI

  • The LCI catalogues all the environmental inputs and outputs of a product system. Data has been collected firsthand from measurements and estimates of key activities, or the data has been based on information drawn from interviews with experts, company data, or literature studies.
  • For the global LCI on REEs, specific primary data for the study was provided by REIA member companies and modelled using GaBi 2018 databases. The dataset includes production from two continents and represents three of the four possible mineralogical routes for REE production.
  • An excerpt of the complete LCI for the ion-adsorption route is shown here.
  • LCA helps the REE industry to pinpoint opportunities for improvement within its operations.
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