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A comparative life cycle assessment of material handling systems for sustainable mining

In this comprehensive LCA comparison study, main objectives are to investigate life cycle environmental impacts of off-highway mining trucks and belt conveyors in surface mining. The research methodology essentially entails determination of the functional unit as 20,000 tons/day coal production transported for 5 km distance. After the system boundary was selected as the entire life cycle of material handling systems including pre-manufacturing of steel parts and plastic components, manufacturing, transportation, and utilization data was compiled from equipment manufacturers and the Eco-invent database. Life cycle impact categories for both material-handling systems were identified and the developed model was implemented using SIMAPRO 7.3. Climate change and acidification were selected as major impact categories as they were considered to be major concerns in mining industry. Although manufacturing stage had a significant impact on all of the environmental parameters, utilization stage was the hotspot for the selected impact categories. The results of this study revealed that belt conveyors have a greater environmental burden in climate change impact category when compared to the trucks. On the other hand, trucks have a greater environmental burden in acidification impact category when compared to the belt conveyors. This study implied that technological improvement in fuel combustion and electricity generation is crucial for the improvement of environmental profiles of off-highway trucks and belt conveyors in the mining industry. The main novelty of this study is that it is the first initiative in applying LCA in the Turkish mining industry. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.