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Copper and critical metals production from porphyry ores and E-wastes: A review of resource availability, processing/recycling challenges, socio-environmental aspects, and sustainability issues

Carlito Baltazar Tabelin, Ilhwan Park, Theerayut Phengsaart, Sanghee Jeon, Mylah Villacorte-Tabelin, Dennis Alonzo, Kyoungkeun Yoo, Mayumi Ito, Naoki Hiroyoshi


Porphyry ores and E-wastes/WEEE are two of the most important copper-bearing materials on the planet. Over 60% of world copper output comes from porphyry copper ores while E-waste(s) is globally the largest copper-bearing waste category since the 1980s. They also contain critical elements for low-carbon technologies essential in the clean energy transition’s success. In this review, a critical analysis of ore distribution/processing, metal extraction, E-waste generation and E-waste recycling is presented, focusing on identifying challenges and how to address them with emerging technologies and sustainable socio-environmental strategies. Access to ore deposits is a major hurdle for mine development while the absence of a consistent E-waste classification and legislation, including poor collection rates, remains serious problems in E-waste recycling. As lower grade porphyry ores are exploited, difficulties in processing/extraction due to mineralogical complexities, very fine particles and the generation of “dirty” concentrates will become more prevalent. For E-wastes recycling, current trends are to develop smaller, more mobile, and eco-friendly hydrometallurgical alternatives to pyrometallurgy that can handle localised compositional and feed variabilities. Finally, more sustainable mine waste management strategies, including better LCIA tools with spatial and temporal dimensions, are needed to limit socio-environmental impacts of resources exploitation and maintain the sector’s SLO.

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