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Abstract

Thermodynamic methods, such as exergy analysis allow the assessment of environmental load (environmental impacts), by calculating the entropy generated or exergy destroyed due to the use of renewable and non-renewable resources along the entire production chain. In this research, exergy analysis will be approached as an extension of LCA to ExLCA (Exergy Life Cycle Assessment), as complementary tools, for sustainability assessment of two gold mining systems in Colombia: open-pit and alluvial mining. It is quantified exergy life cycle efficiencies; Cumulative Energy/ Exergy Demand, by distinguishing between renewable and non-renewable resources used in the process. The energy contained in renewable and non-renewable resources, interpreted as a measure of its utility potential, and which inefficient use generates waste streams with an exergy content that may be a measure of its potential to cause environmental damage. For open-pit mining 53% of exergy consumed comes from fossil energy, and 26% of energetic use of water, while in alluvial mining, 94% of exergy flow comes from water as a resource used within process activities. In order to reduce the environmental impact associated with gold generation life cycle described in this study, four strategies should be implemented; 1) Increasing efficiency, by reducing the exergy required in tails and extraction stages in open-pit mining process and, casting and molding stage in alluvial mining process, where large exergy supplies are required. 2) Increasing efficiency through the reduction of exergy emissions and residues in casting and molding stage in alluvial mining, and stripping stage in open-pit mining. 3) Using external exergy resources, such as renewable resources from nature (solar, wind, hydraulic). 4) Applying the concept of circular economy, which implies the reduction in consumption of resources.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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