An assessment of environmental hazard potentials of raw materials from mining and recommendations for an ecological raw materials policy

Environmental Criticality of Raw Materials

  • Günter Dehoust
    Resources & Transport
  • Peter Dolega
  • R. Vogt
  • L. Kemper
  • A. Auberger
  • Fiona Becker
  • Christine Scholl
  • A. Rechlin
  • M. Priester

Within the project OekoRess II, more than 50 mineral raw materials were evaluated with regard to the environmental hazard potential of mining using and further refining the methodology developed in the predecessor project OekoRess I.

The evaluation system consists of eight indicators on geological, technical and site-related environmental hazard potentials of mining, two supplementary indicators on the magnitude of global energy and material flows and one indicator on environmental governance in the producing countries. These 11 indicators were qualitatively assessed for each raw material on a three-level traffic light scale. Further information, such as the relevance of small-scale mining, complements the raw material profiles. The 8 indicators for environmental hazard potentials were combined into an aggregated environmental hazard potential, which is qualitatively assessed on a five-level scale. This enables the identification of priority raw materials for political, civil-society and private sector measures to increase resource efficiency, close material cycles and perform environmental due diligence in raw material supply chains. 

It is proposed to designate raw materials as environmentally critical if they are of high importance in terms of their use, e.g. for the transformation of the energy system, and at the same time show a high aggregated environmental hazard potential in terms of the methodology developed and applied here.

The Environmental Criticality Report briefly describes the methodology and presents the evaluation results in an overview as well as in comprehensive material profiles. Results are discussed by comparison with the list of critical raw materials for the EU 2017. Finally, recommendations for action for politics, companies and society are described in order to reduce the environmental impacts associated with raw material extraction - through responsible mining practices and responsible raw material supply chains on the one hand and reduced and circular raw material use on the other.