Elements Covers

Posts Tagged ‘October 2017’

IMA 2016 Mineral of the Year: Merelaniite

The International Mineralogical Association is pleased to announce that the Mineral of the Year award for 2016 goes to merelaniite. This mineral was discovered in collector specimens from the Merelani region in northeastern Tanzania, and investigated by John A. Jaszczak (Michigan Technological University, Houghton, USA), Michael S. Rumsey (Natural History Museum, London, UK), Luca Bindi (Università di Firenze, Florence, Italy), Stephen A. Hackney (Michigan Technological University), Michael A. Wise (National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC, USA), Chris J. Stanley (Natural History Museum, London), and John Spratt (Natural History Museum, London).

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Educating the Resource Geologist of the Future: Between Observation and Imagination

Training geologists for a career in the mining industry has changed over the years. It has become at the same time more specialized and with a broader approach. The modern resource geologist needs to understand new styles of ore deposits, the impact of energy transition on the types of deposits and to implement mining processes, the increasing number of mining regulations, and the shift toward educating populations in countries that are new to mining. Based on observation and imagination, rooted in fundamental science, the education of a resource geologist has been transformed by the digital revolution and the integration of the principles of sustainable development. Training future resource geologists means changing the role of teachers to better develop the imaginations of their students and to increasing what students know about the social impact of mining.

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Improving Mitigation of the Long-Term Legacy of Mining Activities: Nano- and Molecular-Level Concepts and Methods

Mining activities over several millennia have resulted in a legacy of environmental contamination that must be mitigated to minimize ecosystem damage and human health impacts. Designing effective remediation strategies for mining and processing wastes requires knowledge of nano- and molecular-scale speciation of contaminants. Here, we discuss how modern nano- and molecular-level concepts and methods can be used to improve risk assessment and future management of contaminants that result from mining activities, and we illustrate this approach using relevant case studies.

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Global Trends in Metal Consumption and Supply: The Raw Material–Energy Nexus

The consumption of mineral resources and energy has increased exponentially over the last 100 years. Further growth is expected until at least the middle of the 21st century as the demand for minerals is stimulated by the industrialization of poor countries, increasing urbanization, penetration of rapidly evolving high technologies, and the transition to low-carbon energies. In order to meet this demand, more metals will have to be produced by 2050 than over the last 100 years, which raises questions about the sustainability and conditions of supply. The answers to these questions are not only a matter of available reserves. Major effort will be required to develop new approaches and dynamic models to address social, economic, environmental, geological, technological, legal and geopolitical impacts of the need for resources.

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Responsible Sourcing of Critical Metals

Most critical raw materials, such as the rare-earth elements (REEs), are starting products in long manufacturing supply chains. Unlike most consumers, geoscientists can become involved in responsible sourcing, including best environmental and social practices, because geology is related to environmental impact factors such as energy requirements, resource efficiency, radioactivity and the amount of rock mined. The energy and material inputs and the emissions and waste from mining and processing can be quantified, and studies for REEs show little difference between ‘hard rocks’, such as carbonatites, and easily leachable ion-adsorption clays. The reason is the similarity in the embodied energy in the chemicals used for leaching, dissolution and separation.

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How to Sustain Mineral Resources: Beneficiation and Mineral Engineering Opportunities

The sustainability of a mineral resource depends, among other aspects, on what the mineral in question will be used for, price fluctuations, future resource requirements, and downstream manufacturing. A balance must be struck between the long-term commitment of developing a mineral deposit against the short-term threats of a changing commercial and social environment. Long-term resource sustainability is dependent both on increased efficiency, which improves profitability, and on revitalizing marginal mines. This is illustrated through breakthroughs in the processing of low-grade copper and refractory gold ores, as well as nickel laterite ores. Retreatment of mine wastes and tailings can also increase the sustainability of mining activity. Ongoing research and development is also helping to sustain mineral resource exploitation.

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Mineral Resources and Sustainable Development

Mineral resources have been used for millennia and are a key to society’s development. With the growing importance of new technologies and the energy revolution, questions have arisen regarding the future availability of resources of metals and industrial minerals. As discovering large high-grade deposits has become increasingly rare, the concept of “sustainable development” will become viewed as essential to extract metals/minerals from new low-grade deposits. In addition to economic considerations, it is essential to reconcile mining activity with environmental protection and to allay the concerns of local populations. This issue of Elements highlights the progressive movement towards an active environmental and societal strategy for sustainably harnessing mineral resources.

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What is Sustainability in the context of Mineral Deposits?

Sustainable development is a term that all too often has been hijacked within our society by politicians and business promoters eager to endorse their “green” credentials. Yet human society requires sustainable growth in order to continue. However, in the context of much of society’s mineral resources what does sustainability actually mean?

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