Sustainable Resource Management in the Production Chain of Precious and Special Metals



Metals are classical examples of non-renewable resources, and their extraction from Earth by mining of ores cannot be seen as sustainable in the strict sense of the word. Mining, by definition, depletes the ore reserves. Through mineral processing and subsequent smelting and refining, ores are disintegrated, and the desired metals are isolated for use in the technosphere. Special and precious metals play a key role in modern societies as they are of specific importance for clean technologies and other high tech equipment. Important applications are information technology (IT), consumer electronics, as well as sustainable energy production such as photovoltaic (PV), wind turbines, fuel cells and batteries for hybrid or electric cars. They are crucial for more efficient energy production (in steam turbines), for lower environmental impact of transport (jet engines, car catalysts, particulate filters, sensors, control electronics), for improved process efficiency (catalysts, heat exchangers), and in medical and pharmaceutical applications. Figure 18.1 provides an overview of these main applications areas for selected metals and illustrates their significance for modern life. For example, electronic products can contain up to 60 different elements and in their entity are major demand drivers for precious and special metals: Just the annual sales of mobile phones and computers account e.g. for about 3% of the world mine production of gold and silver, 15% of palladium and over 20% of cobalt (Hagelüken and Meskers 2008).


Precious Metal Product Service System Technology Metal Automotive Catalyst Indium Price 
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Copyright information

© Physica-Verlag HD 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Umicore Precious Metals RefiningHanauGermany

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