Precious element resources
Hagelüken, Christian Umicore, Precious Metals Refining, Rodenbacher, Germany.
- The scarcity debate
- Dimensions of resource scarcity
- Improving recycling
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
Metals are classic examples of nonrenewable resources, and their extraction from the Earth by mining of ores is not sustainable, in the strict sense of the word. Mining, by definition, depletes the ore reserves. Through mineral processing of the ores and subsequent smelting and refining, the desired metals are isolated for use. Special and precious metals play a key role in modern society, as they are of specific importance for clean technologies and other high-tech equipment. Important applications are information technology (IT), consumer electronics, and sustainable energy production such as photovoltaic (PV), wind turbines, fuel cells, and batteries for hybrid or electric cars (Fig. 1). Driving forces for the booming use of these “technology metals” are their extraordinary and sometimes exclusive properties, which make many of them essential components in a broad range of applications. To a large extent, building a more sustainable society with the help of technology depends on sufficient access to technology metals.
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